Premature deaths among people with diabetes are still high in many African countries due to late diagnosis and a lack of access to insulin, said the World Health Organization, urging governments across the continent to increase investment to prevent more premature deaths caused by the disease.
“In the African region, more than 19 million people are living with diabetes and this number is expected to grow to 47 million by 2025.Sadly, about two-thirds of people living with diabetes in African countries are unaware of their condition,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, in a statement for World Diabetes Day on Sunday.
This year also marks the centenary discovery of insulin in 1921, a scientific achievement and a crucial drug for hundreds of millions of diabetes patients across the world.
Diabetes can lead to many serious medical complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and blindness if left untreated. Diabetes patients are also at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Moeti said even when patients are diagnosed, insulin stockouts in public health facilities and insulin costs result in many patients in Africa not getting the treatment they need.
“For example, in Ghana, it would take the average worker more than five days of earnings to save up for a monthly supply of insulin. In most African countries, the costs of insulin and monitoring products for diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases are paid out of pocket by individuals and their families,” Moeti said.
She also urged African governments to invest in diagnosis and healthcare employee training to prevent the surge of diabetes in the continent.
“I ask governments to invest in making essential products like insulin, blood glucometers and test strips available to all communities. This should be backed by training of health workers in noncommunicable disease prevention and management at the district and community level toward improving service availability,” Moeti said.
The number of people with diabetes in Africa is predicted to rise to 55 million by 2045, an increase of 134 percent from 2021, according to the WHO. It also said the rate of deaths due to COVID-19 in the continent is significantly higher in diabetes patients.
According to a WHO report released last week, the fatality rate in COVID-19 patients with diabetes in Africa is 10.2 percent, compared with 2.5 percent for COVID-19 patients overall.