Worried by the plight of Nigerians living with diabetes, a group of Nigerian journalists under the auspices of the Diabetes Control Media Advocacy Initiative (DICOMAI), have raised the alarm over what they described as the looming epidemic of diabetes complications in the country.
DICOMAI, a media-based Non-Governmental Organisation, made the call on the 2023 World Diabetes Day, lamenting that many persons with diabetes were no longer able to effectively manage their condition, as a result of the high rate of inflation in the country.
In a statement, the Executive Director, of DICOMAI, Sam Eferaro and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Afoke Isiavwe, decried the current economic realities, warning that many people living with diabetes are increasingly unable to access essential diabetes medications and monitoring devices to control their blood sugar.
They said investigations into hospitals and diabetes centers throughout the nation showed that the majority of people with diabetes still pay for their drugs out of pocket, because most of them lack health insurance.
The statement said, “We are worried that a large number of them cannot identify with this year’s theme: “Access to Diabetes Care”, as it has become very difficult for these Nigerians to obtain essential diabetes medications and blood glucose monitoring devices, for treatment and management.
“We are shocked to discover that people, especially in the rural communities, in virtually all the geographical zones, have to travel far distances to towns and cities to obtain their medications with prices now beyond their reach.
“This is because diabetes medications and blood glucose monitoring devices are becoming difficult to acces,s because of a spike in costs, as the majority are imported into the country.”
Expressing worry that since vials of insulin are currently selling for between N6,000 and N15,000, some individuals who have daily injections (children in particular) are being compelled to cut back on their dosages.
In some cases, they noted, glycemic management requires more than one vial each month, even as price increases from 15% – 40% were noted in several states.
They noted that some families are faced with making difficult and painful choices to either buy insulin for their children or buy food, pay for school fees or house rent.
“From our observation, we believe that the current situation of the diabetes scourge demands realistic policies such as HIV/AIDS-free treatment care for all patients.
“We therefore urge both the Federal and all State Governments, including Abuja, to seize the opportunity of the 2023 World Diabetes Day to urgently step up efforts to provide access to people living with diabetes in these hard times. Not acting now could spell doom for the country given the nature of the disease.
“The Federal Government should also adopt pragmatic measures to immediately assist Nigerians living with diabetes and prevent unnecessary deaths and a wide range of complications associated with poorly managed diabetes.
“These will include the introduction of policies such as import duty waivers on diabetes medications and blood glucose monitoring devices, alongside incentives for local production, and free treatment for children and the elderly, across the nation in Government-owned hospitals.
They tasked the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health to urgently declare the current status of diabetes in the country, through a national diabetes survey.
Diabetes 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 problems, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, lower limb amputation, and sexual dysfunction, among others, when not properly controlled – sadly a situation faced by Nigerians living with the condition today. We cannot afford to ignore its potent danger.