There are strong indications of a looming epidemic of diabetes milletus complications in Nigeria, except the federal and state governments urgently intervene to assist people living with the disease to effectively manage their conditions, Diabetes Control Media Advocacy Initiative (DICOMAI), has said.
This warning comes as the global community commemorates World Diabetes Day (WDD) 2023, an annual event dedicated to raising awareness on diabetes on every 14 November.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates for Africa, show that 20 million Africans are diabetic, while 4 million of the affected Africans are Nigerians.
According to the 2023 WHO Global TB Report, diabetes is one of the key determinants of TB, with just under 400,000 TB episodes attributable to diabetes worldwide. It thus maintained that equitable access to care is essential to ending TB, and other complications arising from diabetes.
In a statement signed by the Chairman, Board of Trustees, DICOMAI, Dr Afoke Isiavwe and Executive Director, Sam Eferaro, the group announced findings from its commissioned reports from the nation’s six geo-political zones, which revealed that many persons living with diabetes can no longer access much needed diabetes medications and monitoring devices to control their blood sugar, as the current economic realities bite harder.
Dr Isiavwe, a consultant endocrinologist, noted that visits to some hospitals and diabetes centres across the country revealed that most persons living with diabetes still have to pay out of pocket for their diabetes medications, as only a few have health insurance cover.
She said diabetes remains one of the largest global health emergencies of the 21st century, largely because of its severe and deadly consequences. It is a disease that affects virtually all organs of the body, resulting in loss of vision, dental problem, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, lower limb amputation, sexual dysfunction, among others, when not properly controlled – sadly a situation faced by Nigerians living with the condition today. “We cannot afford to ignore its potent danger”, Isiavwe maintained.
According to the statement, the group expressed its concerns over the conditions of people living with diabetes, as it called on government to act fast.
“We are worried that a large number of diabetes patients cannot identify with the theme of this year’s WDD which advocates “Access to diabetes care” as it has become very difficult for these Nigerians to obtain essential diabetes medications and blood glucose monitoring devices for their treatment and management.
“We are shocked to discover that people especially in the rural communities in virtually all the geographical zones have to travel far distances to towns and cities to obtain their medications with prices now beyond their reach. This is because diabetes medications and blood glucose monitoring devices are becoming difficult to access because of spike in costs as majority are imported into the country.
“Some people on daily insulin injection, especially children are now being forced to reduce their doses as the cost of insulin have increased and being sold between N6,000 and N15,000 per vial. Some need more than one vial a month to achieve glycemic control. Price increment of between 15 to 40 per cent, was observed in different states. Some families are now faced with making difficult and painful choices to either buy insulin for their children, or buy food, pay for school fees or house rent.
“As the nation marks the WDD, it is our wish that the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health will at a minimum inform the nation about the current status of diabetes in the country through a national diabetes survey to reveal the real picture. This, we believe, is urgently required to be able to face the serious challenge of diabetes in the country”.
The group also urged the Federal Government to adopt some pragmatic measures to immediately assist Nigerians living with diabetes and prevent unnecessary deaths and a wide range of complications associated with poorly managed diabetes.
The measures suggested include introduction of policies such as import duty waivers on diabetes medications and blood glucose monitoring devices alongside incentives for local production, free treatment for children and the elderly across the nation in Government-owned hospital, as well as HIV/AIDS free treatment for all patients.