Diabetes is a silent killer in Africa. In comparison to other diseases such as AIDS or malaria among others, diabetes rarely makes any news headlines. Neither does it attract funding. Yet, the statistics of people affected by the disease in the continent are quite shocking and merit public health and policy-making and funding attention.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 10 million people in Africa have diabetes. The disease is also ranked as the fourth leading cause of death in developing countries, and the number of people suffering from diabetes is expected to rise to almost 20 million by 2025.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) contends that diabetes is already a major public health problem in Africa and its impact is bound to increase significantly if nothing is done to curb the rising rate of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), which now exceeds 16% in some countries.
In addition, IDF projects that the prevalence rate will shoot up by 95 percent by 2010 from the current 0.5 to 3 percent range across the continent.
“Many people, including children, die from lack of insulin, and it is likely that many die of diabetes before even being diagnosed, let alone treated,” states the IDF. “Still more suffer debilitating consequences of diabetes such as amputation and blindness.”
For many people in Africa, diabetes is not a major concern. Compounded with little public health information about diabetes, many people wait until it’s too late to seek medical attention for diabetes.