This is a frightening revelation by Diabetics Association of Nigeria (DAN): Over 642 million people would be at great risk globally of being affected by the non communicable disease of diabetes by 2040, if necessary steps were not taken to prevent it.
Not only that, it disclosed that the disease was responsible for over 105 million deaths annually across the world, with over 425 million people living with it worldwide.
DAN raised the alarm through its National President, Mohammed Alkali, at the triennial delegates’ congress and World Diabetes Day celebration in Abeokuta, Ogun State, with the theme, “Improving Diabetes Care In Nigeria: Useful Strategies.” He warned that the statistics could worsen with attendant serious social, economic and psychological implications plaguing individuals, the society and the country at large:
“Diabetics has become a major global epidemic, being the leading non-communicable disease (NCD) and responsible for over 105 million deaths annually. The current number of people living with diabetics is over 425 million and is protected to reach 642 million by 2040, unless urgent steps are taken.
“Although, no reliable national data is available in Nigeria for the number of people living with diabetics, it is protected to be between five and nine million with over half of them not aware of their disease.
“It is not exaggeration to say that almost everyone in Nigeria has a relation or friend that is diabetic and might have lost one. This is only going to worsen, unless concerted efforts are put in place. Public awareness and massive screening have been identified as the key strategy to prevent this epidemic from engulfing the world.” While lamenting that half of the people living with diabetes are not aware of it, Alkali called for concerted efforts to combat it.
Secretary of the association, Mr Bernard Enyia, who also suffers diabetes in a paper titled: “Living with Diabetes in Nigeria: Personal Perspective,” lamented that majority of diabetes patients fall victim of “quacks, unlicensed trado-medical practitioners, drug vendors and dubious religious leaders who preach spiritual healings.”
He added that mischievous medical practitioners who have huge appetite for money as well as incessant strike actions by doctors and health workers compounded the treatment of the disease in the country: “I spend an average of $125 per month to procure essential diabetes care. This represents 71 per cent of the national income per capita. Diabetes weakens the economic status of PLWDs.”
He disclosed that residents of the rural community face issues of distance and inadequate transportation when seeking health care: “As a consequence, rural residents with diabetes issues may be less likely to seek care outside their residential area and therefore, may have fewer or limited treatment choices. Diabetics who are physically challenge have even more difficulties accessing diabetes care at distances considering their terrain and environmental factors.
“The recurrent spate of violence, insurgency, kidnapping, cultism, political gangsterism and other societal crises and disorders are enough to keep patients and doctors terrified. Many doctors have been abducted for ransom sending shocking waves and threats to other potential abductees. Some don’t come back alive, how then do we expect continual and consistent check up?”
Mrs Anthonia Adepeju, who is also one of the people living with the disease said: “I spend fortune to receive treatment of diabetics which I inherited from my father, who unfortunately died of the non communicable disease. All tiers of governments, both at local, state and federal have been treating our issues with levity.
“But for God and few non-governmental organisations, the number of Nigerians suffering or dying as a result of diabetes would have been higher. The assistance I usually receive from the Talabi Diabetic Centre, Iperu, Ogun State, assists me greatly; so also the medical care from doctors, who usually allay my fear about the disease. But for them, only God knows what would have happened to me.”
Other people living with the disease appealed to the federal and state governments to subsidise or make the treatment of diabetes free in public hospitals. The appeal came as part of activities marking this year’s, World Diabetes Day, organised by the DAN. They bemoaned the high cost of managing diabetes and called on the government, international organisations, to support groups and private individuals to come together and fight the disease.
Speaking in a lecture titled: “Improving Diabetes Care In Nigeria: Useful Strategies,” Prof Olufemi Fasanmade, lamented that diabetes treatment in Nigeria is a huge financial burden, not only on the patients but also on their family members.
He disclosed that a diabetes patient in Nigeria spends 66 per cent of his expenditure on treatment unlike in the UK where a patient only spends 10 per cent: “Nigerians spent N92b in treating diabetes in 2017. Government should make the treatment of diabetes free like that of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.”
He bemoaned the low budget allocation for the health sector: “The budget for health is too low to address the various health challenges confronting the nation.” He advised Nigerians to keep a healthy lifestyle and avoid habits such as smoking, alcohol and bad eating habits, which could promote diabetes.
Fasanmade urged the federal and state governments to revitalise the Health Insurance Scheme to capture more Nigerians who cannot afford expensive healthcare services: “All Nigerians should have health insurance to improve the funding of health sector.”