The World Health Organisation on 12 May 2017 appointed Amitabh Bachchan as its goodwill ambassador for hepatitis in South-East Asia region to boost awareness and intensify action to arrest the epidemic. The decision was made public by WHO’s Regional Director for South-East Asia, Poonam Khetrapal Singh. She termed the association as historic and said that it is expected to strengthen the international body’s efforts in reducing the high numbers of premature deaths and illnesses caused by viral hepatitis. The virus kills over 410000 people annually in the region, which also includes India.
According to the data released by WHO in 2017, nearly 90 million people suffer from chronic liver diseases, which are driving rates of liver cancer and cirrhosis in the region. As the new WHO goodwill ambassador, Amitabh Bachchan would be expected to lend his voice and support to the organisation’s public awareness programmes that aim to scale up preventive measures and advocate for early diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis. Amitabh Bachchan would also be advocating for the full implementation of WHO South-East Asia Region’s action plan for hepatitis that seeks to provide a road map for sustainable prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for all forms of hepatitis within the universal health care framework.
As per the national immunisation schedule of countries in the region, a dose of hepatitis B vaccination within the first 24 hours of birth followed by three doses in the first six months would provide protection to the new born and prevent the transmission of the disease from mother to child. Speaking on the development, the legendary actor stated that he is fully committed to the cause and as a person living with hepatitis B, he knows the pain and suffering caused by the disease and no one should undergo a similar suffering,
Health Minister J P Nadda also asserted that Bachchan’s voice is one that would be listened to by people across the country, regardless of their cultural, social or economic background and can make real change possible and with him on board, they would be able to achieve their goal of eradicating the disease. This association is the first such between WHO and Bachchan, who has previously served as the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Polio in India. Besides this, the actor has been supporting various other health related issues in the country including childhood immunisation programme, tuberculosis and Clean India campaign.