The World Health Organization's (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti,has asked governments to make essential products like insulin, blood glucometers and test strips available to all communities as the world observes World Diabetes Day ( WDD) today.
This, she said, should be backed by training of health workers in non-communicable disease prevention and management at the district and community level towards improving service availability.
Dr Moeti in a message on WDD urged people living with diabetes to protect themselves from severe COVID-19 illness and death, by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they could .
On November 14 each year , the international community commemorates World Diabetes Day to raise awareness on the growing burden of diabetes and strategies to prevent and treat it.
The theme for this year, and until 2023, is, “Access to diabetes care”.
Dr Moeti explained that the theme was chosen because too many people still did not have access to diagnostics, medicines and monitoring devices that could help with diabetes management.
She observed that even when patients were diagnosed, insulin stockouts in public health facilities and the costs of insulin, result in individuals not getting the treatment they needed.
" For example, in Ghana, it would take the average worker more than five days of earnings to save up for a monthly supply of insulin, in most African countries, the cost of insulin and monitoring products for diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases, are paid for out of pocket by individuals and their families," she said.
The WHO estimates that in Africa , more than 19 million people are living with diabetes and this number is expected to grow to 47 million by 2025.
"Sadly, about two-thirds of people living with diabetes in African countries are unaware of their condition," Dr Moeti said.
The known risk factors for diabetes include family history, age, being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, or use of alcohol or tobacco.
Health experts say dabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, lower limb amputation, visual impairment, blindness and nerve damage, including erectile dysfunction, if left unchecked, without management and lifestyle changes,
Dr Moeti said people with diabetes were also at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.
In addition, surveys by WHO on access to essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, show that access to diabetes care has been severely disrupted in the African Region.
To improve equitable access to quality diabetes care, WHO launched the Global Diabetes Compact in April 2021.
The Compact builds on work in recent years to rollout the WHO Package of Essential Noncommunicable Disease (WHO PEN) interventions for primary health care in low-resource settings.
So far 21 African countries have started using this package. Benin, Eritrea, Eswatini, Lesotho and Togo have achieved national expansion, covering all primary health care facilities.
Dr Moeti reiterated that services to prevent and manage diabetes care were essential components in realising Universal Health Coverage, so that all people could access the care they need.