L-R: UN Rep. Kayanja; Lion Ayobola Samuel; Gambari and Lion Adebisi at the Lions Club event in Lagos...recently

The need to combat diabetes, a non-communicable killer disease, topped the discourse at the Lions Club International’s 40th Anniversary Day with the United Nations held recently in Lagos. Funke Olaode, who was there, writes

Diabetes is one of the top four killer non-communicable diseases in the world. The others are cancer, heart disease and chronic lung disease.

In 2015, it was estimated that over 422 million people globally had diabetes. According to the International Diabetes Federation, sub-Saharan Africa has high prevalence of diabetes and an estimated two-thirds of the people with diabetes in Africa are undiagnosed.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous nation in the world. According to the World Health Organisation, 2016, about 4.3 million Nigerians are suffering from diabetes.

Lions Intervention
It was against this backdrop and to align with its mission statement to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage and promote peace and international understanding that the Lions Club International chose a theme for this annual event.

All roads led to the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos on March 16, when Lions Club International Multiple District 404, Nigeria celebrated its annual day with the United Nations with a theme ‘Working together globally to combat diabetes’.

Lions Day with the UN is an annual event where the club invites leaders from government, business, and the non-profit sectors to explore solutions to pressing global needs.

To celebrate this year’s Day in Nigeria, former Nigeria Representative at the United Nations, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari was the Chairman of the Day; a Private Diabetes Practitioner, Dr. Mrs. Lathar Ravikuma was the guest speaker, and co-founder of the EKO Hospital Group, Dr. Olorogun Sonny Kuku was the Keynote Speaker.

Other dignitaries included Multiple Council Chairperson MD 404, Lion Gbolagade Adebisi; District Governor 40 B2, Nigeria, Lion Ayobola Samuel, UN Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Ronald Kayanja, Dr. Teslim Sanusi, Lion Abiodun Adediji, diplomats, expatriates from various embassies, all top members of the association, captains of industry, public officers, teachers and students in secondary schools in Lagos including Pacelli School for the Blind and partially impaired were all in attendance.

UN Input
In his statement read by Kayanja, the UNDP Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon said it was a great honour to represent United Nations at this year’s anniversary.

He said the UN deeply values the collaboration with Lions Club International which dates back to the adoption of the United Nations Charter more than 70 years ago in San Francisco, when Lions Club helped to formulate the non-governmental section of the UN founding document.

Commending the association’s collaborative effort with the UN over the years on many successful humanitarian ventures, Kallon said he was encouraged to see that the association is helping children to grow, learn and enjoy a better and quality life through a variety initiatives, including sight first, which has helped restored vision to more than 30 million people worldwide.

“I greatly appreciate what you are doing as the UN counts on the Lions members to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals built on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals to promote equitable and inclusive progress for all humankind on a healthy planet.”

In a speech read by his son, Umar Bolaji, Prof. Gambari commended Lions Club International for choosing this year’s theme, which he said is both timely and appropriate. He said it was also appropriate that the celebration was jointly hosted by the UN, a global body reputed to bring relief, peace and development to the troubled world.
Analysing the theme and why all hands must be on deck to eradicate the epidemic, Gambari said working together to accomplish much is the essence of working together globally to combat diabetes, and in this regard, a comprehensive National Plan of action based on public-private partnership was essential, while the focus should be on prevention, treatment and research.

He stressed that all stakeholders, especially in the health sector would be involved in the design and implementation of a comprehensive strategy to address the scourge of diabetes, “find ways to push it out of our world and make our bodies diabetes-free”.

While smokers are at the risk of suffering from diabetes as it might have a serious effect on cardiovascular health, Gambari recommended measures that could prevent cases of diabetes. According to him, more than anything, there should be a high level of awareness and advocacy and he said the Lions Club and other stakeholders can play a key role in this area.

Medical Impact
Giving a vivid illustration of diabetes from the medical point of view, the keynote speaker, Dr. Sonny Kuku said diabetes is a global disease that has overtaken all infectious diseases that even kill in Nigerian and that is why it must be fought by all and sundry.

Throwing more light on how the disease has eaten deep into the Nigerian fabric, he said there was a paper that came out in Nigeria in 1952 which said there was no diabetes in Nigeria, because it was so small then. Today, it has affected 8 per cent of Nigerians which means one out of 10 will have diabetes in Nigeria.
“The last nationwide survey on the burden of diabetes was carried out in 1997. In 2015, an estimated 14 million people were suffering from diabetes and the figure is likely to increase to 34 million by 2040. We need to fight it.

“Even more worrisome is that the number of people who are walking around with diabetes compared to those who are diagnosed is alarming. Such people can die of complication. Diabetes is the second commonest cause of blindness and amputation. It also leads to hypertension and heart failure,” Kuku said.
Though one of the killer diseases, he said if properly controlled, diabetes may not occur or be postponed. Speaking further, the renowned physician, who is also the Life Patron of Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance of Nigeria, said the cost of treating diabetes is high as one out of six diabetes admissions lead to death compared to malaria, which is one in 1,000.

“How can we prevent the spread of this epidemic? he asked rhetorically. He emphasised awareness and advocacy and not only that people suffering from diabetes should get insulin for free, regular exercise and change of lifestyle.
“Diabetes is not caused by sugar as many believe, but it is as a result of insufficient insulin in the body.” Though the major cause, according to Kuku, is obesity, hypertension, strong family history, sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, alcoholism, smoking etc., he said reduction of diabetes is based on health awareness campaign.

To him, “it is a disease that can be nipped in the bud if one does regular exercise, checkup of blood sugar, blood pressure, women doing cancer screening, physical exercise such as 30 minutes’ walk in five days per week, healthy living and that early detection because if the disease is ‘caught’ early, it can be postponed or cancel mortality.
Kuku called on stakeholders to rise up to the occasion through collaboration as one of the ways to kill diabetes. He also thanked Lions Club for their immense contribution in this area by building Diabetes Centres all over government hospitals across the country.

Remedial Measures
Corroborating Kuku, a private Diabetes Practitioner, Dr. Lathar Ravikuma said diabetes is a disease caused majorly by “Lifestyle: The way you live, eating habit etc.” According to her, the epidemic does not have age limit as it affects all ages.

Although over 371 million people are living with diabetes worldwide she said the disease is prevalent in Africa, Asia and developing countries. To improve health and ward off diabetes, Ravikuma suggested that people should avoid skipping breakfast.

“When you wake up, breathe deeply, instead of sugary breakfast, eat food with high-fibre concentration, water instead of soft drink, vegetables instead of highly concentrated carbohydrate food, drink water with freshly squeezed lime juice, while herbs and spices can improve insulin”, she added.

And while access to affordable health care can help prevent all forms of diseases, she enjoined all to take control of their lives.