CAPE TOWN – Nearly one in five Covid-19 deaths in Africa were found to be among people with diabetes in an analysis of 14 African countries.
While Africa’s incidence rates of people with diabetes remains relatively low, a whole-population study in England showed a third of Covid-19 related deaths occurred in people with diabetes.
However, the trend of non-communicable diseases including heart disease, blood pressure, renal failure, and especially diabetes in sub Saharan Africa has been growing at an alarming rate.
“Far too many people are in the dark as to whether they have diabetes. People with this chronic condition suffer a double blow if they are also infected with Covid-19. We must turn this around by investing in early detection, prevention and treatment of diabetes,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Over the past three decades, the occurrence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically in all countries around the world. The African Region has experienced a six-fold increase, from 4 million cases in 1980 to 25 million in 2014.
With around 60% of people living with diabetes undiagnosed, the African region has the highest proportion of people unaware of their status. A study in Kenya found that 60% of people diagnosed with the chronic condition were not on medication.
At the onset and the peak months of the Covid-19 pandemic, health services for diabetes were particularly disrupted. Only about a third of reporting countries in a WHO survey of 41 countries in sub-Saharan Africa indicated that services were fully functional.
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