Diabetes responsible for 6.7 million deaths in 2021

• By UAUZA KANGUATJIVI

NAMIBIA joined the world on November 14 in commemorating World Diabetes Day where government was encouraged by World Health Organisation (WHO) resident Representative Doctor (Dr), Charles Sagoe-Moses to prioritise investment in essential products such as insulin, glucometers and test strips critical to ensure equitable accessibility for everyone living with diabetes.

“Importantly, diabetes is the only major non-communicable disease (NCD) for which the risk of  dying early is increasing, rather than decreasing.

“Known risk factors include family history and increasing age, along with modifiable risk factors  such as overweight and obesity, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, smoking and alcohol abuse.  Unfortunately, these modifiable risk factors are on the rise in Namibia where: 20 percent are smokers,  36 percent have raised blood pressure, 9.5 percent are obese, 31.8 percent are reported physically inactive and  consume 10.8 liters of pure alcohol per person per year,” Moses said.

World Diabetes day was held under the three-year global theme, ‘Access to diabetes care,’ which ran from last year and will continue into 20223, with the aim of raising awareness of the growing burden to this disease and strategies to prevent manage the threat.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the body does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose.

Uncontrolled diabetes causes high blood sugar levels  which over time leads to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves resulting in serious illnesses, disability, and premature death.

In 2021, globally over 537 million adults (between the ages of 20-79 years) were living with diabetes, which is 1 in 10 people having diabetes. Globally, the number of people with diabetes rose over five-fold from  108 million in 1980 to over half a billion in 2021 and this number is predicted to rise to 643  million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045.  Diabetes was responsible for 6.7 million deaths in 2021 which translates to 1 diabetes related death in every 5 seconds.

“Prevalence has been rising more rapidly in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.

Over 3 in 4 adults with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries.  In Africa, 1 in 22 adults (24 million) adults are living with diabetes, with that number predicted to double to 55 million by 2045. Over 1 in 2 (54%) people living with diabetes were undiagnosed. In 2021, Diabetes took the lives of 416,000 people on the African continent and is forecast to become one of the leading causes of death in Africa by 2030,” Moses said.

According to the Namibia Demographic Health Survey (2013) Six percent of women and 7 percent of men are diabetic, that is, they have elevated fasting plasma glucose values or report that they are taking diabetes medication. An additional 7 percent of women and 6 percent of men are pre-diabetic while 67 percent of women and 74 percent of men with diabetes are taking  medication to lower their blood glucose.

“Response efforts are however constrained by the fact that more than one in every two people in  Africa including Namibia living with Diabetes mellitus have never been diagnosed. Increased access to diagnostic tools and medicines, particularly insulin, is one of the most urgent areas of  work.

“To accelerate progress on diabetes and other NCDs, WHO developed the Global Diabetes Compact. Its vision is to reduce the negative impacts of the disease, and ensure that everyone  living with diabetes has access to equitable, comprehensive, affordable, and quality treatment  and care,” Moses said

During the 75th World Health Assembly in May this year, WHO Member States supported the  creation of the first global targets for diabetes by 2030.,

“As such, the strategy calls for the strengthening of capacity at these facilities to diagnose and  manage Type 1 diabetes, and other severe NCDs. Its implementation will reduce the number of  deaths, and improve the quality of life of Africa’s children living with Type 1 diabetes,” he said..