Diabetes massive challenge for Malawi

Many lives of Malawians, who are suffering from diabetes are posing a great danger, as many hospitals in the southern Africa country have no drugs on this chronic illnesses, this was revealed on Thursday during a round table discussion which was organized by Journalist Association against AIDS in Blantyre.

The round table discussion which was funded by World Diabetes Foundation took place at Malaria Alert Centre Conference at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.

In his presentation, Diabetes Association of Malawi Chairman, Timothy Ntambalika said many hospitals in the country have run out of stocks leaving people with the disease at a grave yard position.

Ntambalika ( centre) presenting his speech

Diabetes is a disease in which the body has a shortage of insulin, a decreased ability to use insulin, or both. Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose (Sugar) to enter cells and be converted to energy.

When diabetes is not controlled, glucose and fats remain in the blood and, over time damage vital organs.

For instance, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness, kidney failure, and amputations of feet and legs not related to accidents or injury.

Ntambalika stressed that a person with diabetes has a shorter life expectancy and about twice the risk of dying any given day if medicine is not available.

“We are experiencing a shortage of drugs for diabetes in our hospitals which is a threat to our lives. For your information sugar is a leading death in Malawi only that many people are not aware of this
because they ignore this disease. In a week we are losing many people to diabetes due to lack of medicine,” said Ntambalika.

Ntambalika also stressed that in Malawi, many people about 70 per cent suffer from type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but can be prevented through health food choices, physical activity, and weight loss.

It can be controlled with these same activities, but insulin or oral medication also may be necessary.

A clinician from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, who opted for anonymity, told Nyasa Times that the procurement price of Metformin (a diabetes medicine) is lagging behind in the country.

“I really do hope that in the next two years, Metformin will be much more available to many patients. The irony is that the prices come down when a drug is used more often. At the moment Metformin is still very expensive because it is not being used widely,” he said.

One patient revealed during the meeting: “When l went to collect my medicine a clinician denied me Metformin by telling me it was not available yet l saw him giving his relative lots of them. I had to go to the pharmacy to buy my own medicine. “

Diabetes educator from Mwaiwathu Private Hospital Lutengano Kadammanja in her presentation said that many people in Malawi die silently because they do not take courage to go have a test on diabetes.

“Many people do not even know the signs of diabetes as a result they think they are fine without knowing that it kills silently by destroying parts inside the body,” said Kadammanja, who encouraged
Malawians to go for diabetes test.

She added that, “ The symptoms of diabetes can be quick subtle-people, for example, may just feel tired, without realizing that there is something very much wrong with them. When the blood
sugar level rises, people start to have more obvious symptoms like frequent urination and thirst.”

Executive Director of JournAIDS, Christopher Bauti said that Malawi is having a prevalence of 5.6 per cent of diabetes which is very serious and cannot longer be ignored.

“This means that productive is being slowed, hence we have invited you media colleagues to learn and also take this message to assist combat this disease,” said Bauti.

Bauti, Phiri, Ntambalika and Kadammanja

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