#EndHepatitis: Combating Nigeria’s Hepatitis B rates through education and partnerships
As a medical student at Lagos State University College of Medicine, Oluwananumi has always had a penchant for global health. As part of his studies, Oluwananumi assisted doctors in his university’s Gastroenterology Clinic. There, he noticed that a significant number of patients were diagnosed with Hepatitis B. Hepatitis is widespread in Nigeria - in 2018, the government found that 8.1% of the population is infected with the virus. That’s approximately 19 million people . Despite global efforts to curb infection and death rates in Nigeria, the virus has remained common throughout the country and in Oluwananumi’s hometown in Ikeja, Lagos. Faced with this situation, he was determined to figure out why Hepatitis B transmission was not slowing down.
Talking to his community, Oluwamanumi found that there are two underlying causes for the spread of Hepatitis B: lack of awareness of the disease and how to prevent it, and lack of access to screening and health services. This is compounded by “a gap between the government, healthcare bodies and the general public, which is the primary cause of the information deficit culminating in the continuous spread of Hepatitis''. The virus is potentially life threatening, but can be avoided through vaccination and managed with medical treatment to maintain a high quality of life . However, information, vaccination and primary care aren’t readily available to people in Ikeja.
With guidance from his mentors, Oluwananumi created a learning and screening program to reduce Hepatitis B rates in his community. The program consisted of an information session on the virus with community members and free screenings. Based on screening results, those who tested positive would be referred to the Gastroenterology Clinic at Lagos University and those who tested negative would be vaccinated to prevent infection. He would work with local governments and businesses to mobilize that community and access the necessary resources.
But this was no easy feat and Oluwananumi was not going to manage it alone. During his third year of medical school, he founded Health Drive Nigeria: an organization focused on health advocacy. Through Health Drive Nigeria, medical students and volunteers provide screening services and emergency funds to people in remote areas with inadequate access to healthcare. In 2019, Oluwananumi received a Peace First grant to screen 500 residents in Ikeja. He was able to immunize those who tested negative for Hepatitis B, direct those who tested positive towards support and sensitize the community on preventive measures and symptoms to look out for.
The work didn’t stop there. In 2021, Oluwananumi joined Peace First’s Lead the Work program. Lead the Work is a program held in Sub Saharan Africa to support young changemakers in the Peace First community in building the skills necessary to lead and scale a sustainable organization. After three months of Lead the Work training, Oluwananumi and Health Drive Nigeria received a Peace First grant to develop an electronic medical record platform that will improve doctor to patient interaction. By 2021, Health Drive Nigeria had screened and vaccinated over 15,000 rural residents of Lagos State. They are now building on the platform that will widen the scope of their work, supporting the Nigerian community with prevention, screening and monitoring.
 Hepatitis B Foundation. 15 January, 2020. The Journey to Hepatitis Elimination in Nigeria. https://www.hepb.org/blog/journey-hepatitis-elimination-nigeria/
 WHO. 27 July, 2021. Fact sheet. Hepatitis B. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-b