Geneva: The WHO Thursday said it will launch a new pilot campaign in India, Egypt and Uganda to combat hepatitis which affects over two million people globally through the use of unsafe injections.
The Global Injection Safety Initiative, to focus on Hepatitis B and C which cause approximately 80 per cent of liver cancer deaths counting to about 1.4 million people every year, is part of the World Health Organisation's global patient safety programme.
The campaign will raise public awareness for safe injections to combat Hepatitis B and C, ministry engagement for national plans to deal with the infections and engage the private sector, including the syringe manufacturing community, to transition to exclusive production of safe syringes, the WHO said.
"Egypt, Uganda and India are three of the flagship countries that will be taking on the first steps on this campaign," said Dr Edward Kelley, Director, Service Delivery and Safety at WHO.
"In India, the discussion is essentially focusing on two states as a potential start but we haven't had the final discussions with the ministry as to how exactly they would like to roll that out. In September, there will be a team going out to do assessments.
"Our work on preventing the infection before they happen will be key to controlling the potential elimination of hepatitis globally," Kelley said.
Unsafe injections account for 32 per cent of Hepatitis B - 1.7 million infections - and 40 per cent of Hepatitis C - 315,000 infections - globally.
The most frequent medical procedure in the world today is administering of injections, about 16 billion a year, Kelly said, adding: "And the rate of unsafe injections of those 16 billion - the estimate is up to 40 per cent."
Around 130 to 150 million people globally have chronic Hepatitis C infection and an estimated 240 million people are affected with chronic Hepatitis B.
"We call Hepatitis, the silent epidemic. It is really under-appreciated -- its level of importance as a cause of death," said Dr Stefan Wiktor, Team Leader, Global hepatitis Program of WHO.
The UN agency is also planning to combat the problem of excessive use of injections as part of its campaign.
Gilead, one of the three companies with Hepatitis C treatment, has given voluntary licensing to 11 Indian generic drug manufacturers for use in 91 countries after a huge furore caused by its USD 1,000 a pill price tag for treatment.
"In the last few months, the first generic came out," Dr Wiktor said.
The World Hepatitis Day is on July 28.