… As UN teams up with Lions Club, experts to battle killer disease
Diabetes, described as a major non-communicable killer disease, was the focal point at a recent United Nations (UN) event in Lagos. The forum was the Lions Club International’s 40th anniversary day with the United Nations.
It was one forum that attracted several experts who spoke on the prevention and treatment of diabetes as well as the death and distress that the disease had been spreading across the globe, including Nigeria.
The event took place on Friday March 16, at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos, with the theme “Working Together Globally to Combat Diabetes.”
Nigeria’s former permanent representative at the United Nations, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, chaired the event, while Dr. (Mrs.) Lathar Ravikuma, a diabetes specialist, was guest speaker. Dr. Sonny Kuku, co-founder, EKO Hospital Group, was the keynote speaker.
Other eminent personalities at the event included Multiple Council chairperson, MD 404, Gbolagade Adebisi; District Governor 40 B2, Nigeria, Ayobola Samuel, United Nations representative in Nigeria, Mr. Ronald Kayanja, Dr. Teslim Sanusi, Abiodun Adediji, diplomats, representatives of different embassies, members of the Lions Club International, captains of industry, public officers, teachers and students of secondary schools in Lagos as well as students of Pacelli School for the Blind and Partially Impaired.
The prevalence of diabetes has, over the years, become a major cause of worry across many countries. In 2015, the International Diabetes Federation estimated that over 422 million people had diabetes the world over. The body declared that there was high prevalence of diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, even as about two-thirds of people living with diabetes in Africa remained undiagnosed. In 2016, the World Health Organisation disclosed that no fewer than 4.3 million Nigerians suffered from diabetes.
These scary statistics probably prompted the Lions Club to make diabetes the major focus of this year’s edition of the annual event.
Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon, whose statement was read by Mr. Ronald Kayanja, said the UN deeply valued the collaboration with Lions Club International, which had been on for over 70 years. He recalled that the club helped to formulate the non-governmental section of the UN founding document.
Said he: “I greatly appreciate what you are doing as the UN counts on the Lions members to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals built on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals to promote equitable and inclusive progress for all humankind on a healthy planet.”
Gambari was represented by his son, Umar Bolaji. He commended the Lions Club International for choosing this year’s theme, describing it as timely and appropriate.
Gambari said working together globally to combat diabetes was a welcome development, adding that there must be a comprehensive national plan of action based on public-private partnership. He stressed that the focus should be on prevention, treatment and research. He also suggested that all stakeholders in the health sector should be involved in the design and implementation of a comprehensive strategy to address the scourge.
In his view, smoking could result in diabetes, and the habit might have serious effects on cardiovascular health. On how to prevent diabetes, Gambari recommended education and advocacy, noting that the Lions Club and other stakeholders had a major role to play.
Kuku described diabetes as a global disease that had overtaken all infectious diseases in the country. He asserted that the disease must be fought by all and sundry.
Kuku, who is the life patron of the Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance of Nigeria, recalled that there was a paper published in the country in 1952 that disclosed that there was no diabetes in Nigeria, as the cases were small and insignificant. He regretted that, today, the disease was affecting about 8 per cent of the population.
Said the medical expert: “The last nationwide survey on the burden of diabetes was carried out in 1997. In 2015, an estimated 14 million people were believed to be suffering from diabetes, and the figure is likely to increase to 34 million by 2040. We need to fight it.”
He said the number of people walking around with diabetes without knowing it was even more worrisome. Such people, he said, could die of complications.
“Diabetes is the second commonest cause of blindness and amputation. It also leads to hypertension and heart failure,” he said.
Kuku stated that diabetes was one of the worst killer diseases, but said the disease might not even occur or be postponed. He said the cost of treating diabetes was high, as one of six diabetes admissions usually leads to death while that of malaria is one in 1,000.
He also suggested ways of preventing the spread of diabetes. Advocacy and awareness was of essence, he noted, just as those suffering from diabetes should get insulin for free. He also suggested regular exercise and change of lifestyle for diabetes patients.
“Diabetes is not caused by sugar, as many believe. It is a result of insufficient insulin in the body,” he said.
According to Kuku, the causes of diabetes include obesity, hypertension, family history of the ailment, sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, alcoholism and smoking, among others. He said health awareness campaign could help reduce the prevalence of diabetes but there were other habits that nip the disease in the bud. These include blood sugar checks, blood pressure checks, cancer screening for women, physical exercise such as a 30-minute walk five days per week, healthy living and early detection.
Kuku, while calling on stakeholders to collaborate and fight the disease, thanked the Lions Club for its contributions to the campaign by building diabetes centres in government hospitals across the country.
In her speech, Dr. (Mrs.) Lathar Ravikuma concurred with Kuku. She said diabetes is caused mainly by lifestyle, adding that the disease affects people of all ages.
To ward off diabetes, Ravikuma said avoiding breakfast might be helpful.
“Breathe deeply. Instead of a sugary breakfast, eat food with high fibre concentration; drink water instead of soft drinks; eat vegetables instead of highly concentrated carbohydrate food; drink water with freshly squeezed lime juice,” she said.
She noted also that herbs and spices could improve insulin levels in the body.