HUYE — Unless preventive measures are taken, the number of diabetic cases in Rwanda is expected to double by the year 2030, researchers have warned. The researchers made the revelation this week during the 13th Medical Conference on Diabetes held in Butare.
This year’s annual medical conference that opened August 28 was organised by the National University of Rwanda’s Faculty of Medicine.
The exact number of people affected by the disease in Rwanda is not known. Estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) put the figure at 30,000 people.
According to Bonaventure Nizeyimana, an official from the Ministry of Health, no study has ever been done to ascertain the number of diabetic cases in Rwanda.
“There is need to gather information about what we believe is an increasing number of diabetic cases in Rwanda. Figures by the WHO are based on regional estimates and are not representative of the situation in Rwanda,” said Nizeyimana.
Prof. Francois P.R. de Villiers, who is a guest speaker from the department of pediatrics and child health, MEDUNSA campus at the University of Limpopo-South Africa, in his presentation said, “Africa is not escaping the impact of diabetes. It is caught up in a triple burden of infectious diseases, emerging infections like HIV/Aids and chronic non-communicable diseases.” He said that cultural beliefs and practices in some communities in Africa hamper the fight against diabetes.
“Some people still believe that children in diabetic coma are bewitched and traditional healers are consulted before consulting medical practitioners.
François Gishoma, the President of the Rwanda Diabetics Association elaborated on some misconceptions on diabetes in Rwanda.
He cited the case of an 11-year old boy from Rusizi District who suffered from diabetes. His parents treated it as a case of poisoning and only went to the district hospital after the boy had gone into a coma.
Experts say there are two types of diabetes; type 1 and 2. The first, which is rare, is predominant in people below 35 years of age, while the second– the common¬– is mostly affects people above 35 years of age.
Prof. Villiers said the onset of type 2 diabetes can be significantly delayed or prevented and that most complications of diabetes can be prevented or significantly delayed.
Dr. Jean Bosco Gahutu, in his presentation on ‘Diet diabetes’, said weight loss reduces the risk of developing diabetes in the long term and is associated with clinical improvements in obese patients.
“Recent nutrition studies have proven the favourable effect of a diet with high fiber content. Insoluble cereal dietary fiber in whole grains is associated with reduced diabetes risk,” Gahutu pointed out.
According to Gahutu, different studies also found that the use of vegetables, legumes and fruits is useful in reducing morbidity and mortality of diabetic patients.
The two-day conference was officially opened by Prof. Martin O’Hara, the National University of Rwanda’s Vice Rector in charge of Academic affairs.
It was sponsored by the German Technical Cooperation, Belgian Technical Cooperation, Sanofi-Aventis, and the National University of Rwanda’s Research Commission.