Lebanon News

Health Ministry: Prisoners should be immunized against hepatitis

Khalil, Charbel and Qortbawi are supporting a drive to improve medical care for prisoners. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Prisoners should be immunized against hepatitis B, the caretaker health minister said Monday at an event to launch a cooperative initiative with the Justice Ministry, the Interior Ministry and UNICEF to mark World Hepatitis Day. Ali Hassan Khalil insisted the initiative was essential in order to maintain the rights of prisoners across Lebanon who lack access to proper medical care.

The launch came a day after World Hepatitis Day Sunday, which aimed to raise awareness about the condition, its effects and available treatment.

“Today, prisoners have the same rights as anyone else,” Khalil said at a news conference at the ministry. “Unfortunately, [the ministry] admits there are deficiencies in matters related to the living condition of prisoners. However, this should not prevent [the ministry] from doing the best it can.”

Lebanon has so far used a vaccine for hepatitis B relatively effectively, immunizing close to 95 percent of the population, Khalil said, citing statistics from 2012.

About 600,000 people die every year due to acute or chronic hepatitis B, according to the World Health Organization. The vaccine has “an excellent record of safety and effectiveness,” WHO’s website states.

“Our goal this year is to reach out to the prisoners,” Khalil added. “As citizens and human beings, we are all concerned with providing them with proper care. They are much more susceptible [to illness].”

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel insisted on the need to improve conditions inside prisons by establishing more modern facilities, which would lower the risk of transmission.

Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi supported the idea that prisoners should have access to medical care. He also spoke about the necessity of fighting drug addiction and the importance of providing physical and psychological care for addicts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 30, 2013, on page 4.




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