…. theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day is “Women And Diabetes:Our right to a healthy future.Journalists takes a look at the csuses, cure and ravages of the global scourge.
At a crowded tea spot in a quiet neighbourhood of Suleja in Niger State and close to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), a large number of low-income earners eagerly wait for their turn to have a hot cup of tea and bread before heading to their places of work.
The young and old all want the attention of the busy tea man also known as (Mai shayi) in Hausa language. As they get their hot cups of Shayi, the vendor grabs his large spoon, takes turns to scoop mounds of processed sugar from a bowl and empty same in their rubber tea cups.
This Mai-shayi spectacle, is just one of the ways Nigerians consume processed sugar daily.
After joining the tea party, Journalists Weekend attempted to speak to the obviously happy customers who were engrossed in discussions of matters that bother their communities far and near Suleja.
How to do you cope with the intake of large amounts of sugar? Ali Bakwara, 29, who hail from Mokwa in Niger State simply replied, “I take ‘Maganin Basir’ (Herbs against piles and all sugar related diseases) and that’s why I and many other persons here don’t bother about our sugar intake,” said Bakwara, who is a professional mason based in the city of Suleja.
Another customer interjected, claiming to love sweet things. “I love sweet things, we have our way of burning anything that will lead to high blood sugar in our bodies and it has been with us for generations,” said Aliyu who appeared so confident.
Have you heard of diabetes mellitus (blood sugar) consuming too much sugar (or sugary foods and drinks) can make you put on weight and weight gain from eating too much of any food can make a person’s chance of getting diabetes greater, Journalists Weekend enquired from the customers, arousing their interest in the subject.
Many at the venue dismissed the claims and said diabetes is a “rich man’s disease”, as they joked off the rather serious matter.
Before leaving the spot,Journalists Weekend was able to get one man who knew about diabetes. He agreed that the disease remains a killer in several parts of Nigeria.
Danlami Abdu, 42, a trader said, “I know a family who had a diabetes patient in the past; I actually don’t know the state of the man today, but they are always on alert as the man is always sick with swollen legs. I really sympathise with the family, but actually I can’t tell you much about that family now because they have relocated from my area,” Abdu said.
Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both.
Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience polyuria (frequent urination), they will become increasingly thirsty (polydipsia) and hungry (polyphagia).
Medical experts have it that diabetes is a long-term condition that causes high blood sugar levels. In 2013 it was estimated that over 382 million people throughout the world had diabetes.
The disease has been categorised into- Type 1 Diabetes – the body does not produce insulin. Approximately 10% of all diabetes cases are type 1. Type 2 Diabetes – the body does not produce enough insulin for proper function. Approximately 90% of all cases of diabetes worldwide are of this type. Gestational Diabetes – this type affects females during pregnancy.
The most common diabetes symptoms include frequent urination, intense thirst and hunger, weight gain, unusual weight loss, fatigue, cuts and bruises that do not heal, male sexual dysfunction, numbness and tingling in hands and feet.
It is believed that as at 2014, an estimated 422 million adults were living with diabetes, compared to 108 million in 1980. If the epidemic of ‘Diabetes’ were a country, it would come in at third place in terms of population, behind only China and India.
The global prevalence of diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980, rising from 4.7 per cent to 8.5 per cent in the adult population. This reflects an increase in associated risk factors such as being overweight or obese. Over the past decade, diabetes prevalence has risen faster in low and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.
World Diabetes Day is the primary global awareness campaign focusing on diabetes mellitus and is held on November 14 each year.
The attention of the international community began to be focused on the ailment after the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/61/225 in 2007 designating that date as World Diabetes Day.
The document recognised the urgent need to pursue multilateral efforts to promote and improve human health, and provide access to treatment and health-care education. The resolution also encouraged Member States to develop national policies for the prevention, treatment and care of diabetes in line with the sustainable development of their health-care systems.
Sadly, about 2.1 million women die every year from diabetes globally, with Nigeria accounting for many of the dead. The disease is recognised as the ninth leading cause of death in women, yet many women with the disease are unaware they have it.
In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that about 1,707,000 Nigerians are living with diabetes mellitus.
Experts say persons living with undetected or poorly managed diabetes would develop a wide range of complications, including diabetes mellitus foot syndrome, which sometimes results in the amputation of the patient’s leg and death.
They posited that diabetes foot, in particular, could be deadly if not detected on time. It can lead to lower extremity amputations. A diabetic faces the risk of foot amputation at least 25 times more than the person living without the condition.
In view of this, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) which Nigeria is one of the 32 countries of the IDF African region claimed that about 415 million people have diabetes in the world and more than 14 million people in the AFR Region.
By 2040 according to the group, this figure will more than double. By it records, there were more than 1.56 million cases of diabetes in Nigeria in 2015.
Members of IDF in Nigeria marked the day with free diabetes screening and diabetes foot care education for the public because early detection could save individuals from these complications.
Of the theme, they said that it should be of particular interest to Nigerians because the country has one of the highest numbers of persons living with diabetes in Africa.
The country also has a large number of women living with diabetes and they are worse off because many do not have access to diagnosis, education, treatment and care.
According to IDF, two out of every five women with diabetes are of reproductive age, accounting for over 60 million women worldwide.
Researchers, NGOs task on diabetes cure as 20, 000 people get free diabetes screening
The governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, challenged world leaders, researchers and charitable organisations to join efforts in finding a cure for diabetes.
Obaseki, made the call on Monday, in commemoration of the United Nations World Diabetes Day, celebrated on November 14, each year.
He said, “While previous efforts at finding a lasting cure for diabetes have produced drugs with which diabetes sufferers could manage the health condition, millions of people across the world still bear the disease burden, denying them of fulfilment and happiness.”
He advised stakeholders, namely; research institutes, governments, non-state actors, pharmaceutical companies and charities, multilateral organisations as well as individuals to come together and create a common platform for a robust discussion on funding, the application of advanced technology in research to find a cure for the disease.
“Individually, we all have a role to play in our collective fight against diabetes. Regular medical check, the right diets, exercise and an adjusted lifestyle could help put the disease at bay,” Obaseki said.
He emphasised the need for a proactive approach to the management of health-related issues and urged people to prioritise their health.
“As a government, health care is a major pillar of our developmental plan for Edo State. One of our strategies is prevention. We are convinced that preventive approach as against a reactive approach, saves costs, if any, and eliminates pains and suffering associated with treating a disease. Our programmes on malaria and polio prevention, align with our preventive strategy,” the governor said.
He assured that his administration will heighten the campaign on preventive health care system as he begins his second year in office, to galvanise more people to place more premium on their health.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to reduce the burden of diabetes in Nigeria, Biofem Pharmaceuticals has embarked on free blood glucose screening to over 20, 000 residents of Lagos State.
The campaign, which started last Tuesday in four designated centres across the state, including Computer Village Ikeja; Trade Fair Aspamda; Ikotun; and Victoria Island, is one of Biofem’s activities to commemorate this year’s World Diabetes Day marked every November 14 to raise awareness on the dangers of the scourge.
Speaking in a press briefing to announce the screening and awareness campaign, the head of Marketing, Biofem, Usifo Augustine, said the organisation decided to raise awareness on the scourge because many Nigerians were dying from the silent killer, while several others who are living with it are not aware they are infected.
He said: ‘’That is why we have, in conjunction with our partners in South Korea, SD Biosensor, secured a very unique and smart blood glucose machine called Codefree Blood Glucose Monitor, which we use for our screening exercises.’’
He lamented that more than half of those living with diabetes in the country were not aware hence, the high number of deaths occasioned by the disease is on the rise.
According to him, “We have been championing major campaign on diabetes because we realised government’s body language seems to favour causes on communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis. And we feel that because diabetes is a very insidious disease, it is actually killing us more than these communicable diseases.
“We are encouraging people to come out and get screened because that is the only way to know their status whether they are normal, pre-diabetic, or diabetic. Those pre-diabetic can actually reverse themselves back and become normal again meaning ,”For those who do not bother to check, once they move from pre-diabetic stage to diabetic stage, it means they have signed a lifetime marriage with the disease condition, and that is part of what we hope to avoid through our various interventions,” he stated.
He called on Nigerians to avoid risky behaviours that can lead to diabetes, adding that those with genetic predisposition must embrace healthy lifestyles so they do not come down with the disease later in life.
“Sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits, smoking, drinking, among others are major risk factors for diabetes. Age and obesity are risk factor. Gestational diabetes is also a risk factor, but with healthy living, the possibility of coming down with it is very slim,” he said.
Augustine warned Nigerians not to overload themselves while eating, adding that it was better to eat lower portions of food frequently than eating heavy, “because the body is better at managing the foods we give it. We should eat more of complex carbohydrate that takes time for the body to breakdown, than the several processed foods we eat, as these could affect the blood sugar level of the body negatively,” he warned.
In 2015 alone, about 120,000 Nigerians were said to have lost their lives to diabetes; which may, if recent predictions are relied on, become the number one cause of deaths in the country among other non-communicable diseases, thereby topping the chart, as against cardiovascular diseases currently leading the causes of deaths occasioned by NCDs in Nigeria.
What is even more worrisome is that apart from the over five million Nigerians currently suffering from the chronic disease, indications show that not less than an entirely different five million Nigerians are diabetic but unaware since it does not come with symptoms.
By indication, this shows that more than 10 million Nigerians are actually suffering from diabetes in the country; a figure experts say will continue to increase unless Nigeria and Nigerians make conscious efforts to tackle it head on.
This is evident in the steady rise of diabetes, diabetes-related complications or deaths recorded in the country, leaving most sufferers at the mercy of the disease, since they are neither aware of the disease or are unable to receive treatment.
Over the past 30 years, the prevalence rate of the disease was said to be 0.4 per cent among the Nigerian population; in 1992, it rose to 1.6 per cent; in 2004 it was 3.1 per cent, and just recently, it has risen above 4.5 per cent, according to a survey conducted by Osuntokun et al.
But experts at the launch of the Base of Pyramid Project by Novo Nordisk say the steady rise of the disease in the country is associated with lifestyle changes; overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, dietary changes and cigarette smoking, adding that if nothing was done both on the part of the citizens and the stakeholders, the disease may spiral into a national health emergency that would take more lives out of their prime; a disease they have noted was partly preventable.
The National Vice President, Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Dr Ejiofor Ugwu, said 75 per cent of diabetics globally reside in low and middle income countries like Nigeria, where majority could barely afford treatment cost.
To manage diabetes, it is said to be expensive especially to low income earners in rural areas. Many families in Nigeria could hardly raise N20, 000 average monthly maintenance care for diabetes. Experts say prevention is key to reducing the prevalence in the country.
Although, Nigeria is said to be lacking in adequate health structures to fight the menace, the need for more awareness have been advocated as diabetes drives poverty into the family.