The number of diabetic people is growing with statistics showing that four out of five people with diabetes live in low and middle income countries, according to a report by International Federation of Diabetes Africa (IDF).
The figures were released at an ongoing 4th Annual East African Diabetes Study Group Congress and Scientific conference on Diabetes taking place in Kigali.
“The percentage of people living with diabetes before being diagnosed is very high; three out of four are undiagnosed in Africa. The mortality associated with diabetes is also high, in African settings, diabetes is an acute and chronic killer disease and the highest rate of death up to 80 per cent in some countries,” the report said.
The conference was organised by the East Africa Diabetes Group (EADSG) in collaboration with Rwanda’s Ministry of Health.
The three-day congress, which opened on Sunday at Kigali Conventional Centre, is aimed at discussing the latest development in treatment of diabetes.
Participants are also exploring measures of addressing challenges posed by an increasing burden of diabetes and other non communicable diseases in East Africa and beyond.
The congress is run under the theme ‘Prevention of Diabetes and its complications.’
It’s expected to highlight the importance of prevention of diabetes, how to overcome it, knowing its serious complications, and learn up-to-date methods used in diabetes treatment.
IDF noted that data on children are scarce but in Africa its very high compared to the number of children diagnosed and accessing treatment.
It said that Africa is suffering due to late routine screening for diabetes, especially during pregnancy.
Family income in low income countries is spent on chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, said a report.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Minister of State in charge of Public Health and Primary Health Care, Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, said hosting the congress in Rwanda is timely.
“The Government of Rwanda is committed to fighting NCDs [none communicable diseases] and mitigating their impact so as to empower our population to live as healthy and prosperous lives as possible,” he said.
He added that, today, in Rwanda all 42 district hospitals and more than 70 per cent of health centres have integrated NCD clinics, complete with diabetes testing, treatment, and care as well as regular supervision and mentorship.
At community level, the health sector initiated community check-ups covered by the national Community Based Health Insurance (Mutuelle de Santé) covering diabetes and other NCDs screening, treatment and care services.
Naby Balder, the professor of Endocrinology at University of Guinea and chair of International Federation of Diabetes Africa, said diabetes is one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases along with other NCDs, and the leading cause of death worldwide.
“The progress is slow especially in our region, we need to speed up action. There are many challenges concerning diabetes in Africa in general. In fact, many of them are related to access to diagnosis, medication, proper treatment, drugs and financial,” he said.
He added that because diabetes is unrecognised in low and middle countries, IDF has developed a set of measures including advocacy, data collection and medication, and financial programmes.