WHO: Nearly 1 in 5 COVID-19 deaths in African region linked to diabetes

Nov 18, 2020, 9:39 AM

Brazzaville – The World Health Organization (WHO) finds that 18.3% of COVID-19 deaths in the African region are among people with diabetes, one of the conditions that global studies have found to increase the risk of severe illness and death among patients infected with the virus.

The WHO analysis of 14 African countries, which provided information on COVID-19 and comorbidities, showed that the risk of complications or death from COVID-19 among people with diabetes increases with age, with people aged 60 years and above facing greater risks.

Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation, but with early diagnosis and treatment, many of the harmful effects of the disease can be delayed or even avoided. The disease occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin [type 1 diabetes] or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces [type 2 diabetes]. The more common is type 2 diabetes.

Over the past three decades, the occurrence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically in all countries around the world. The African Region has experienced a six-fold increase, from 4 million cases in 1980 to 25 million in 2014. With around 60% of people living with diabetes undiagnosed, the African region has the highest proportion of people unaware of their status. A study in Kenya found that 60% of people diagnosed with the chronic condition were not on medication.

“Far too many people are in the dark as to whether they have diabetes. People with this chronic condition suffer a double blow if they are also infected with COVID-19,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We must turn this around by investing in early detection, prevention and treatment of diabetes.”

At the onset and the peak months of the COVID-19 pandemic, health services for diabetes were particularly disrupted. Only about a third of reporting countries in a WHO survey of 41 countries in sub-Saharan Africa indicated that services were fully functional.

“We must not lose sight of other health challenges as we combat COVID-19. World Diabetes Day is a key moment to call attention to this chronic illness, which is increasingly threatening the lives of Africans,” Dr Moeti said.

World Diabetes Day is marked on 14 November every year.

In many African countries, access to basic equipment for diagnosis and monitoring of diabetes is a challenge, especially in public and remote health facilities. There are also limited supplies of insulin and oral hypoglycaemic medicines for diabetes on the continent, while health workers are not sufficiently trained in diabetes diagnosis and care for patients. 

The African region is also witnessing a rise in diabetes risk factors such as obesity. Increasingly sedentary lifestyle and consuming foods rich in sugar, fats and salt is heightening obesity, ranging 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 and to expand access to diabetes prevention and care services through the WHO Package of Essential Noncommunicable Disease Interventions for Primary Health Care in Low-Resource Settings. Twenty-five countries have adopted the package and are working to decentralise and improve early diabetes detection and patient care.

Read Other Articles In Headlines
AG tasked to provide receipts worth over D22M
Oct 6, 2023, 11:44 AM

The Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) of the National Assembly has tasked the Accountant General to liaise with the Minister of Justice to provide to the Auditor General and FPAC the Janneh Commission’s Treasury receipts amounting to D22,319,957.92, information pertaining to the sale of the assets of former President Jammeh and other relevant documents, or face probe.

UTG introduces national languages
May 11, 2021, 11:20 AM

The University of the Gambia (UTG) on Thursday 6 May 2021 gathered stakeholders to validate the introduction of local languages in the school curriculum by next semester. The event was held at the university campus in Kanifing.

Ebrima Sillah v8
New Ferry Service Management on tour to improve services – Says Minster Sillah
Sep 25, 2023, 11:24 AM

Ebrima  Sillah, the Honorable Minister for Transport, Works and Infrastructure on Wednesday 20 September 2023 told deputies at the National Assembly that the new management of the Gambia Ferry Services was currently touring the ferry crossing points nationwide in order to improve services in those affected regions of the country, notably Bansang and other areas.

Dr Samateh and H.E Richard Carl Paschall
U.S. gov’t donates 151,200 doses of J&J vaccines to MoH
Aug 3, 2021, 2:04 PM

The arrival of 151,200 doses of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines donated by the U.S. government to the Ministry of Health of The Gambia (MoH), through COVAX facility was witnessed by the health minister together with his medical experts and religious leaders at the Banjul International Airport on Sunday 1 August 2021.