WHO Regional Director
Dr Poonam Khetrapal is the South-East Asia regional director at the World Health Organization.
The world is at a crossroads. Almost two years since SARS-CoV-2 was detected, some countries globally are returning normal, or something very close. Many more countries -- including in the WHO South-East Asia Region -- continue to aggressively respond, battling new and more transmissible variants. Social and economic disruptions continue.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Southeast Asia region is intensifying action to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. Globally, an estimated 296 million people live with chronic hepatitis B and around 58 million live with chronic hepatitis C. In 2019, viral hepatitis caused nearly 1.1 million deaths globally, despite the existence of safe and effective vaccines that can prevent hepatitis B and antiviral drugs that can manage chronic hepatitis B and cure most cases of hepatitis C. An estimated 60 million people in the region live with chronic hepatitis B and around 10.5 million live with chronic hepatitis C. In 2019, around 180,000 people in the region died of hepatitis B and about 38,000 died of hepatitis C -- both completely manageable.
The World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia region has in recent months witnessed a sharp and sustained surge of SARS-CoV2 infections. For consecutive weeks in April and May, the region has reported more than 2 million new cases, with some areas reporting test positivity rates 40% and upwards. Variants of concern and their sub-lineages have been detected in several member states and may be associated with increased rates of transmission. Both the region and world are at a critical moment in the battle against Covid-19. No country is safe. We are all at risk.