By Joseph Ayinde
Africa’s sharp surge in cases of diabetes is clashing with the COVID-19 pandemic and poor access to vaccines, the World Health Organisation has said.
Africa’s death rates from COVID-19 infections are significantly higher in patients with diabetes, according to a preliminary analysis which the World Health Organization (WHO) presented ahead of World Diabetes Day.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement, said fighting the diabetes epidemic in Africa is in many ways as critical as the battle against COVID-19.
An estimated 24 million people are living with diabetes in Africa and the continent is expected to experience the highest increase in diabetes globally, with the number of Africans having the disease predicted to rise to 55 million by 204, the WHO revealed.
“The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually subside, but Africa is projected in the coming years to experience the highest increase in diabetes globally. We must act now to prevent new cases, vaccinate people who have this condition, and equally importantly, identify and support the millions of Africans unaware they are suffering from this silent killer,” he said.
Diabetes impairs the body’s ability to produce or process insulin, a substance essential to counteracting a dangerous rise in blood sugar. The disease causes inflammation and poor blood circulation, both of which increase the risk of complications, including death, from COVID-19.
”Health officials in Africa must take advantage of the growing availability of low-cost rapid diagnostic tests to routinely test patients in diabetes centres to ensure early detection and proper care,” said Dr Benido Impouma, Director, Communicable and Noncommunicable Cluster at the WHO.
He also called for access to the COVID-19 vaccine for poor African countries saying, ”Thus far, only 6.6% of the African population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared with about 40% globally”.