It is disheartening that an estimated 24 million people are living with diabetes in Africa. Out of the number, it is sad that 70 per cent of those suffering from the condition are reportedly not aware of their status. This was revealed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) prior to the marking of this year’s World Diabetes Day (WDD) on November 14.
The two global health agencies predicted that the number of Africans suffering from diabetes would rise to 55 million by 2045, thus making Africa the highest region in the world with diabetes burden. Nigeria’s diabetes burden is said to be on the increase.
In fact, Nigeria is reportedly one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are currently being ravaged by diabetes mellitus. According to a recent study, approximately 5.8 per cent or about six million Nigerians are living with the disease as at July, last year.
The term diabetes is used to refer to a group of diseases that result in too much sugar in the blood or high blood glucose. Essentially, there are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is said to be a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin while Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar or glucose.
According to medical experts, the symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and urination, increased hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, numbness or tingling in the feet or hands, and unexplained weight loss.
Considering the enormity of the disease burden in Nigeria and other African countries, there is need for the government of Nigeria and others on the continent to wage a regional war against the scourge. Since so many sufferers of the disease are not even aware that they have it, we call on African governments to embark on massive enlightenment campaigns to keep their citizens abreast of the symptoms, causative factors of diabetes and treatment options.
In addition, we urge the countries in Africa where the disease is on the rise to subsidise the cost of treatment in view of the rising poverty on the continent. Besides, let there be increase in health investments in Africa. Currently, what we vote for health in Africa is abysmally too low to make appreciable impact. While Africa’s disease burden is on the rise, the investment in health cannot be said to be increasing. On no account will Africa witness rapid socio-economic growth without commensurate investments in health and education. The poor state of healthcare in Africa is indirectly promoting medical tourism on the continent. We urge African leaders to urgently reverse the trend.
Therefore, we call on all tiers of government in the country to rise to the challenge and wage a relentless war against diabetes mellitus and other diseases ravaging the country. Let the government come up with effective preventive strategies and management options to tackle the disease. Enlightenment programmes through multi-media channels on the symptoms, preventions, and tips on lifestyle changes, periodic medical checks, dietary regimen and physical exercises can be helpful in managing the condition.
Complementary and alternative medicines can also be deployed to curb the scourge. The current prevalence rate of the disease is a call for a more pragmatic approach and injection of novel ideas to handle the condition. Those with the disease should also be sensitised on how to adhere to prescribed medicines. The consumption of processed foods, sedentary lifestyle and reduced physical activities should be discouraged.
We urge the government to build more primary healthcare centres in the rural areas to enable more Nigerians have access to quality healthcare services. Due to the shortage of diabetes specialists in Nigeria, we enjoin the government to train more doctors in this vital area of medicine. This is the time to put in place a better functioning health system and a structured diabetes programme to tackle the menace.