The World Health Organization (WHO) says that nearly one in five deaths from COVID-19 in Africa is linked to diabetes, according to a study.
The WHO revealed this in a statement issued Thursday from its Regional Office for Africa, Brazzaville, Congo.
According to the statement, the WHO finds that 18.3 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the African region occur among people with diabetes.
“They are found among people with diabetes, one of the conditions that worldwide studies have found increases the risk of serious illness and death among patients infected with the virus.
“The WHO analysis of 14 African countries showed that the risk of complications or death from COVID-19 among people with diabetes increases with age, and people aged 60 and over face higher risks.
“Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, strokes and lower limb amputation, but with early diagnosis and treatment, many of the ill effects of the disease can be delayed or even avoided.
“The disease occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin [type 1diabetes] or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces [type 2 diabetes].
“The most common is type 2 diabetes.”
During the past three decades, he claimed that the incidence of type 2 diabetes had increased dramatically in every country in the world.
“The African region has seen a six-fold increase, from four million cases in 1980 to 25 million in 2014.
“With around 60 percent of people living with undiagnosed diabetes, the African region has the highest proportion of people who are unaware of their status.
“A study in Kenya found that 60 percent of people diagnosed with the chronic condition were not taking medication.”
The statement quoted Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, as saying: “Too many people don’t know if they have diabetes.
“People with this chronic condition suffer a double blow if they also become infected with COVID-19.
“We must reverse this by investing in the early detection, prevention and treatment of diabetes.”
According to the statement, at the beginning and in the peak months of the COVID-19 pandemic, health services for diabetes were particularly disrupted.
“Only about a third of the countries that reported in a WHO survey of 41 countries in sub-Saharan Africa indicated that the services were fully operational.”
The statement further quoted Moeti as saying: “We must not lose sight of other health challenges as we fight COVID-19.
“World Diabetes Day is a key moment to draw attention to this chronic disease, which is increasingly threatening the lives of Africans.”
World Diabetes Day is celebrated on November 14 of each year.
In addition, he said that in many African countries, access to basic equipment for diabetes diagnosis and monitoring is a challenge, especially in public and remote health facilities.
“There are also limited supplies of insulin and oral hypoglycemic drugs for diabetes on the continent, while health workers are not sufficiently trained in diabetes diagnosis and patient care.
“The African region is also experiencing an increase in risk factors for diabetes, such as obesity.
“An increasingly sedentary lifestyle and the consumption of foods rich in sugar, fat and salt is increasing obesity, which ranges from 2.5% of adults in Burundi to 26.9% in Seychelles.”
WHO is working with countries to train more nurses and other health workers to expand access to diabetes care and prevention services.
This is done through the WHO Essential Interventions Package for Noncommunicable Diseases for Primary Health Care in Low-Resource Settings.
Twenty-five countries have adopted the package and are working to decentralize and improve early detection of diabetes and patient care.