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Over 11 million Nigerians living with diabetes

At least 11.2 million persons are living with diabetes in Nigeria, public health experts disclosed on Wednesday following a local study on its prevalence in the country.

They also raised concerns that cases are rising at an alarming rate, even among children due to poor management, saying there is a need for the Nigerian government to take urgent action to curb the disease burden.

Sunny Chinenye, a professor and consultant Endocrinologist at the University of Portharcourt teaching hospital, noted that the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) had put the number of Nigerians with diabetes at 3.6 million, but said an analysis of the data shows the number is much higher.

Speaking in Abuja at the launch of a project on diabetes between Novo Nordisk and the federal ministry of health he said, “From the mathematical calculations and analysis we have done 11.2 million Nigerians are living with diabetes. The diabetes atlas that did the calculation out of the extrapolation published by IIDF says that at least 3.6 million Nigerians are living with diabetes, we have looked at all the local studies and put them together. The number of people living with diabetes is far more than what the IDF published last year.

He further disclosed that 40 percent of persons with diabetes were not diagnosed on time, adding that most cases are often presented late when there are complications already and requiring amputation.

The expert while decrying the rising cases said the mortality rate from the disease is also significant. He pointed out that 6.7 million people died last year from diabetes. “If you put mortality for HIV/AIDS Tuberculosis and malaria together, diabetes is more. We also need to create a global fund for diabetes, the statistics are disturbing with a national prevalence of 5.8 percent of the 200 million population, we need urgent action.”

Chinenye added that the lack of political will, poor funding and absence of care at the primary health level is worsening the burden.

“In Port-Harcourt alone, we see about 150 patients in a week, there is no dietician at primary and secondary level, we only have a few at the tertiary level. We are overwhelmed at the teaching hospital by the number of diabetes patients we manage. If we can pick them up at the early stage at the primary level, 50 percent of the cases can be managed.”

Available statistics from the IDF diabetes atlas (2021) shows that there are 537 million people with diabetes worldwide and projected a 46 percent increase from 2021 to 2045, rising to 784 million. While in sub-Saharan Africa, the number is projected to increase by 129 percent by 2045.

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Also speaking, Babatope Kolawole, consultant Endocrinologist, Obafemi Awolowo teaching hospital expressed concerns that the cost of controlling diabetes is on the rise due to factors such as inflation, low insurance penetration; and has become a huge burden among sufferers and caregivers.

The IDF report also shows that treatment of diabetes per person rose from an average cost of N60,000 in 2011 to N300,000 in 2021, and is expected to rise above N500,000 in 2030 and over N1.0 million by 2045. In addition, the total diabetes related health expenditure in the country is expected to rise from N745 billion in 2021 to over N1.07 trillion in 2030 and reach N1.59 trillion by 2045 .

As part of efforts to tackle this burden, the federal ministry of health and Novo Nordisk signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU), which will serve as the basis on which the roll-out of iCARE will be anchored. iCARE is the implementation of a new global social responsibility strategy called “defeat diabetes” by Novo Nordisk, in Africa, with the ambition to provide access to affordable diabetes care to vulnerable patients in every country and ensure that no child should die from type 1 diabetes.

Other stakeholders include the Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Endocrinology of Nigeria (SPAEN), the Royal Danish Embassy (RDE) and World Wide Commercial Ventures Limited (WWCVL). Novo Nordisk in a statement said the key objective of the initiative in Nigeria is the provision of access to affordable diabetes care for vulnerable patients, through the Affordability programme designed for retired and elderly people over the age of 55 who have limited income and health coverage, and the Changing Diabetes in Children programme (CDiC) for children living with type 1 diabetes. These align with the defeat diabetes strategy, which targets underserved populations in every country.

“The Affordability programme aims to reach 12,000 patients with affordable insulin through 100 implementing facilities, while building the capacity of 450 Health Care Providers (HCPs) by 2023. The CDiC programme aims to reach 2,400 children and train 380 HCPs, working through 30 facilities by 2025.

Sune Krogstrup, ambassador of Denmark to Nigeria, highlighted the strategic role of the iCARE initiative and its various programmes in the corporate vision of Novo Nordisk to defeat diabetes in Africa and facilitate access to affordable diabetes care for the underserved populations living with the disease.