Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, is calling on the health authorities in the region, including Liberia, to unite their efforts in the prevention and control of diabetes.
Diabetes is a long-lasting disease that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high and over time may lead to serious damage to vital organs of the body including gangrene (disease) of the feet that often leads to amputation.
According to the WHO, diabetes is a major cause of premature death and disability.
Dr. Moeti’s call was contained in her World Health Day Message she delivered recently on the rise of diabetes in the region.
The focus this year is on diabetes prevention and control.
There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by insufficient insulin production in the body. People with this type of diabetes require daily injection of insulin. Type 2 diabetes results from ineffective use of insulin in the body. It is responsible for about 90% of all diabetes and is increasingly occurring in younger age groups.
Dr. Moeti said “unhealthy diets, lack of physical exercise, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, obesity and overweight are some of the factors that could contribute to Type 2 diabetes.”
Globally, the number of people living with diabetes has risen sharply from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. In the African Region, WHO says the figure has quadrupled from 4 million to 25 million during the same period.
“The sharp rise is a result of rapid uncontrolled urbanisation, globalization and major changes in lifestyle with a resultant increase in the prevalence of the lifestyle risk factors. Diabetes imposes a substantial public health and socioeconomic burden in the face of scarce resources,” she stated.
The good news, however, is that the disease can be prevented by maintaining normal body weight, engaging in regular physical activity, eating healthy diets that include sufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables and avoiding alcohol consumption and the use of tobacco.
Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to prevent the development of complications. Equally important is the need to strengthen public awareness about diabetes to reduce the chances of developing and dying from the disease.
WHO warned that urgent and concrete actions are needed to tackle the rising problem of diabetes in Africa.
She urged all governments to implement the globally agreed actions to prevent and control diabetes. “Diagnosis and treatment of diabetes should be integrated with the management of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and other chronic conditions.”
“It is essential to ensure access to basic diagnostics and lifesaving medicines such as insulin and oral hypoglycaemic agents at all levels of the health care delivery system including primary health care level. I also call on development partners, civil society and the private sector to jointly intensify efforts to defeat diabetes.”
WHO said they remain committed to continue to provide technical support for development and implementation of policies and strategies for the prevention and control of diabetes and other NCDs in the Africa region.