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Jesuits News Missions Magis in Chad: caring for mothers in the fight against hepatitis

Magis in Chad: caring for mothers in the fight against hepatitis

Reducing the vertical mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B in the urban and peri-urban area of N’Djamena, Chad, by screening and treating pregnant mothers and vaccinating 500 newborns within 24 hours of birth: this is the objective of the “Fight against hepatitis B, screening and maternal and child health care in Chad” project organised by Volontari Terzo Mondo Magis (VTM) and the MAGIS Foundation. The project, funded by the Veneto Region (CS2023B), is part of a wider initiative by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation entitled “For a resilient health system in the land of Toumai – SiSaTou AID 12590/09/8”. . It was presented on 21 May at the Candiani Centre in Mestre during the conference “From Veneto a new hope for mothers and newborn babies in Chad”

Thanks to screening and awareness campaigns, pregnant women are increasingly aware of the need to be tested to prevent transmission to their child. Pregnant women who test positive receive not only medical treatment (ARVs) but also psychosocial support until the baby is born. The newborn is then vaccinated. The vaccines, which would be too expensive for mothers of several children, are provided free of charge by the Ministry of Health.

The project is being developed in the urban and peri-urban areas of the capital, N’Djamena. Mothers are supported throughout their pregnancy, from a health and psychosocial point of view, until the moment of delivery.

There are five health centres linked to the CHU-BS hospital complex, where rapid diagnostic tests are carried out. Midwives and health and social workers play a fundamental role, not only in terms of health, but also in terms of information and psychosocial support.

Today, it is estimated that more than 350 million people worldwide are living with viral hepatitis. Every 30 seconds, one person dies from hepatitis-related diseases. 9/10 people are unaware that they have the disease. In Africa, only about 6% of newborns receive the hepatitis B vaccine on time.

Hepatitis has a significant impact not only on the lives of those affected, but also on the economy of the country as a whole, as it causes disability (cirrhosis and liver cancer) and mortality. Hepatitis is therefore a public health problem that is widely considered in the 2030 Agenda, in particular in the Sustainable Development Goal 3 ‘Health and well-being’, which explicitly mentions the fight against hepatitis among its targets: ‘By 2030, the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases must end; hepatitis, water-borne and other communicable diseases must be overcome’.

Speakers at the conference included Fabio Minniti (Italian Agency for Development Cooperation – Niamey Office), Agostino Candito (Veneto Region), Giuseppe Sbalchiero (President of VTM Magis), Andrea Sperandio (President of Mestre mia). The meeting was moderated by Giovanni Sarpellon, a well-known sociologist from Venice and one of the first Venetian international volunteers to go to Chad over 50 years ago. The Speakers were: Sabrina Atturo (collaborator of the MAGIS Foundation), Sandro Panese (Director of Infectious Diseases Aulss 3), and Ali Mahamat Moussa (National Focal Point for Hepatitis in Chad).

“The high prevalence of the virus requires a comprehensive approach that includes prevention of infection in young women, screening during pregnancy, treatment and monitoring of pregnant women with chronic hepatitis B, and administration of the hepatitis B vaccine to newborns within the first 24 hours after birth,” Sabrina Atturo, MAGIS Foundation Collaborator and Programme Leader said, “So far, 2548 women have been tested; 276 pregnant women have tested positive for the hepatitis B virus and immediately received antiretroviral treatment”.

This is a fight to improve the quality of life and survival of newborns and children, a project that also aims to raise awareness among the Chadian Ministry of Health for the implementation of a newborn vaccination programme against hepatitis B in the most exposed and remote areas of Chad.

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