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African region leads the world in undiagnosed diabetes: World Health Organization (WHO) analysis

Only 46% of people living with diabetes in the African region know their status, which increases the risk of serious illness and death, potentially worsening the situation in the region which already has the highest death rates in the world due to diabetes. the disease, according to a new analysis by World Watch the World Health Organization (WHO).

Globally, 55% of people with diabetes know they have diabetes. In the African region, lack of screening facilities and equipment, insufficient number of qualified health personnel, poor access to health facilities and lack of diabetes awareness are some of the barriers to diabetes screening . Currently, 24 million adults are living with diabetes in Africa. This figure is expected to increase by 129% to reach 55 million by 2045.

In the African region, premature deaths from diabetes (defined as deaths occurring before the age of 70) stand at 58%, which is higher than the global average of 48%, while the death rate The region’s age-standardized rate (a mathematical adjustment of different populations for the same structure) for diabetes is 48 per 100,000, more than double the global rate of 23 per 100,000. In the region, only one every second person living with type 1 diabetes, the most common form of pediatric diabetes, has access to insulin treatment.

“One of the biggest challenges in diabetes care is the lack of diagnosis. Without screening, diabetes becomes a silent killer,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “While countries face several hurdles in tackling diabetes, the growing prevalence of the disease is a wake-up call to strengthen health care, improve diagnosis, access to life-saving diabetes medicines and give prioritizing diabetes as a major health problem.”
This year’s World Diabetes Day, which is celebrated today under the theme “Access to Care”, calls for greater access to quality diabetes care and the importance of prevention and response .

For the first time ever, countries agreed in May 2022 on key global targets to improve diabetes diagnosis, access to equitable, comprehensive, affordable and quality treatment and care. The targets, contained in the WHO Global Compact on Diabetes, aim for 80% of people living with diabetes to be diagnosed; 80% of people diagnosed with the disease have good blood pressure and blood sugar control.

In addition, countries should strive to ensure that all people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes have access to affordable insulin and blood glucose self-monitoring and that 60% of people with diabetes aged 40 and over more have access to cholesterol-lowering drugs. People with diabetes have a higher risk of hypertension and are prone to high cholesterol, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, than those without diabetes.

For people with diabetes, access to affordable treatment, including insulin, is essential to their survival. Limited access to insulin puts their lives at risk. In rural Mozambique, for example, the life expectancy of a child with type 1 diabetes is only seven months. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar.

Between 2011 and 2021, the region has seen a fivefold increase in type 1 diabetes among children and adolescents under the age of 19, with cases rising from 4 per 1,000 children to almost 20 per 1,000.

WHO is helping African countries improve their response to diabetes. In August 2022, African Ministers of Health endorsed a WHO-led initiative called PEN Plus to increase access to diagnosis, treatment and care for serious chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and disorders. mental and neurological.

The strategy calls on countries to adopt measures to ensure that essential medicines, technologies and diagnostics are available and accessible in district hospitals. According to a 2019 WHO survey, only 36% of countries in the African region have essential medicines for chronic diseases in public hospitals.

Distributed by APO Group for the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

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