Prioritise Diabetes Control, DICOMAG Urges Health Minister

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Martins Ifijeh

Diabetes Control Media Advocacy Group (DICOMAG), a non-governmental organisation, has urged the new Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire, to make the control of diabetes a major priority during his tenure as he settles down to run the affairs of the nation’s health ministry in the next four years.

In a statement signed by its Director of Communication, Mrs Yinka Shokunbi, while congratulating the minister and the Minister of state for Health, Senator Olurunnimbe Mamora, the group urged Ehanire to devise urgent and concrete measures to address the current heavy burden of the disease in all parts of the country to prevent a looming epidemic.

She said: “We are delighted that Ehanire is back in the ministry where he served as the minister of state in the last dispensation. We believe he is well placed to lead the ministry towards the revitalisation and restructuring of the nation’s battered healthcare delivery system.”

The organisation however urged him, as he settles down to work, to consider for urgent attention, the alarming increase of diabetes in Nigeria, its attending complications, deadly consequences and impact on the health and overall wellbeing of the people.

“The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that no fewer than five million Nigerians are currently living with diabetes and like elsewhere in the world, the number of cases is increasing very fast.

“The federation also estimates that one in every two people with diabetes in the country is undiagnosed which means that the current estimated number of cases could be double or even more.

“Last year, experts at a stakeholders meeting on diabetes foot care raised the alarm that Nigeria is currently recording unacceptable number of lower extremities amputation and death resulting from diabetes foot ulcer in all parts of the country.

“That’s not all, results of different studies in Oke-Ogun area of Oyo State, Port Harcourt in Rivers, Ile Ife in Osun State, the rural communities in Gombe, Enugu, Kwara, Borno, Zaria, Uyo, Sokoto, among several others, all indicate that diabetes is not only prevalent, it is contributing to the development of heart disease, renal disease, pneumonia, bacteremia, and even tuberculosis (TB) in all the places.

“The minister is aware of these and the fact that diabetes mellitus remains one of the largest global health emergencies of the 21st century, largely because of its severe and deadly consequences.

“This 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 diabetes today.”

The organisation noted that the rapid increase of diabetes cases is a global phenomenon, especially in the developing countries. It added that the difference however, is that while most countries are now working relentlessly to ensure it does not become a major epidemic, Nigeria seems to be sitting on the fence with no measure or policy to curtail the rapid spread.

“While neighbouring countries like Cameroun now provide insulin free of charge to children and other countries have adopted policies to assist citizens to achieve control of the condition, Nigeria seems to have left people living with diabetes to their fate and without any measure to ensure early detection of cases or inform the people on preventive measures.

“Virtually all the states have remained silent. Yet, the number of people living with diabetes or suffering from its consequences such as stroke, blindness, limb amputation, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease are, by far, more than the number of Nigerians affected by Lassa fever, cancer or Ebola which are not only dreaded but given priority attention.

“More worrisome is the fact that a large number of Nigerians with diabetes only get to know of their status at an advance stage of the disease when complications have set in. Awareness about the disease remains at the lowest ebb in the country.

“The honourable minister will need to take a lead and encourage state governments to embark on immediate campaign for the prevention and control of diabetes.”