Health Ministry urges early diabetes screening

The Ministry of Health has called for early screening of diabetes after a study found that half of the 175,575 people living with diabetes in the country are undiagnosed. This comes as Rwanda joined the world to observe the World Health Day.

The Ministry of Health has called for early screening of diabetes after a study found that half of the 175,575 people living with diabetes in the country are undiagnosed. This comes as Rwanda joined the world to observe the World Health Day.

Held under the theme; “Beat diabetes”, the day was dedicated to raising awareness of diabetes, scale up its prevention, strengthen care, and enhance surveillance.


The disease has major health and socio-economic impacts, especially in developing countries.


Simon-Pierre Niyonsenga, the Director of Pulmonary, Renal, Diabetes and other Metabolic Diseases at Rwanda Biomedical Center said that the Ministry of Health alongside other stake holders is combining all efforts to fight diabetes and all non-communicable diseases in general.


A 2013 survey done by The Ministry of Health estimated that 175,575 people (between the ages of 15-64) are living with diabetes, that corresponds to the prevalence of 3% among the population.

“The main challenge is that almost half of them are not diagnosed, meaning that they are not aware that they have diabetes.”

There is an annual community health checkup for NCDs including diabetes for men above the age of 40 and Women above the age of 35 and it is covered by all health insurances, including Mutuelle de Santé.

Nathan Mugume, the Director of Communications at Rwanda Biomedical Center, stressed that as far as diabetes was concerned, more efforts are put in prevention measures as a way of curbing the disease.

“We are also working with associations of people living with diabetes and through this we sensitize people on the risks, the dangers and prevention measures one can take to prevent diabetes,” Mugume said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had sounded a warning that the number of people living with diabetes had increased and that prevention measures needed to be taken.

Research done by WHO, revealed that the number of people living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults, with most of them living in developing countries.

The number of people living with diabetes and its prevalence are growing in all regions of the world. In 2014, 422 million adults (or 8.5% of the population) had diabetes, compared with 108 million (4.7%) in 1980.

Key findings from the WHO “Global report on diabetes” indicate that in 2014, more than 1 in 3 adults aged over 18 years were overweight and more than one in 10 were obese.

They also showed that diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012. Higher-than-optimal blood glucose caused an additional 2.2 million deaths by increasing the risks of cardiovascular and other diseases.

Many of these deaths (43%) occur prematurely, before the age of 70 years, and are largely preventable through adoption of policies to create supportive environments for healthy lifestyles and better detection and treatment of the disease.

Who is at risk?

According to experts, overweight and obese people face a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Age is also a significantly contributing risk factor to the increasing number of cases.

Being overweight causes the body to release chemicals that can destabilize the body’s cardiovascular and metabolic systems.

Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly, this happens as a result of the pancreas not producing any or not enough insulin to help glucose enter the body’s cells.

Dr Wilbur Bushara, a Medical Practitioner at Herna Medical Centre explains that there are two main forms of diabetes; type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Pregnant women can also develop impaired glucose levels, which may disappear or persist after they deliver, this is called “gestational diabetes.”

He added that the cause of type 2 diabetes isa result of excess body weight and physical inactivity, whereas the cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and people living with it require daily insulin administration for survival.

“When a person has diabetes, their body cannot maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood, unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood can lead to long term and short term health complications,” Dr Bushara explains.

Glucose is a form of sugar which is the main source of energy for the body.

He adds that, complications from diabetes include heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation, depression, anxiety and blindness.

Making a few lifestyle changes can radically lower the chances of one developing type 2 diabetes. Exercising makes muscles work harder and more often, this improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose, Dr Bushara explains.

“Maintain a healthy diet for instance one can opt for diets rich in whole grains, avoid processed and red meat, sugary drinks, Alcohol, smoking among others, this can help reduce risks of being diabetic.”

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