News / Africa

Diabetes Explodes in Sub-Saharan Africa

Testing blood sugar at home with a blood glucose meter.Testing blood sugar at home with a blood glucose meter.
x
Testing blood sugar at home with a blood glucose meter.
Testing blood sugar at home with a blood glucose meter.

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
Diabetes, a life-long disease that increases sugar levels in the blood, affects over 366 million people worldwide. The NGO Project Hope, based in the U.S. state of Virginia, said in sub-Saharan Africa that diabetes, once a rarity for Africans, is now affecting over 12 million people. The organization said there is an urgent need to expand education about the disease in developing countries, and they recently opened a center in Johannesburg in partnership with the pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, that addresses the needs of patients at risk of developing diabetes, and those living with it. 

Paul Madden, Project Hope’s senior advisor for non-communicable diseases, explained that diabetes is rapidly spreading throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and even other developing countries around the world, largely due to lifestyle changes.   People generally are not as active as previous generations, and they are in jobs that require them to sit or stand for long periods of time.  Another reason for the increase in the rate of diabetes is eating processed food.

“The way things are packaged, they’re often in bigger portion sizes than the body needs.  So it’s the portion sizes, lack of activity.  In some of the villages and towns and cities in Africa, it’s people are living longer, and as you live longer and get less active, and also taking in a few too many calories on some days, and if you do that over many years, you gain weight,” explained Madden.  

In countries where there are food crises, Madden said you have a moral dilemma of having to feed people.  Much of the foods donated from the international community are calorie-dense foods, and while making sure that hungry people are fed is vital, it is also important to educate people about food and nutrition, so they can properly take care of themselves. 

Madden described Project Hope’s way of tackling this challenge.

“We see our peer group every day.  We see family members every day, so we actually are going in and training community health workers," he said.  "I think of our Hope Clinic in South Africa, just outside of Johannesburg, and in that program, yes, we have well-trained professionals who run the clinic.  But we also are training not just the person who comes in with obesity, with diabetes, but we’re training family members too. And we invite them also to bring an important friend in to join us for the education.”            

Madden said Project Hope plans to stay in the community for several years or more, so that the education process will be successful, “but at some point, we want the local leaders, the local medical teams, the local educators, role models, village leaders, to run those programs.  And as you know . . . throughout Africa and the world there are so many groups that need some assistance right now.”   

Madden said Type 2 diabetes is the form of the disease that is exploding in Africa right now.

“And Type 2 diabetes is the type that tends to develop when the waist line gets bigger.  We get less active, too many calories on the plate or in the bottle, however we do it, drink it or eat it.  So it’s that Type 2 diabetes that we often see developing a little later in life.  And in a frightening way too, I’ve been in the business for 38 years now as a diabetes specialist. If you and I were talking 38 years ago, I would tell you that type 2 diabetes from too big a waist line, too many calories, too little activity, was virtually non-existent in Africa and the world,” he explained.

There are other factors that must also be considered when looking at causes of diabetes.  For example, in some countries that are experiencing fighting and instability, parents are keeping their children indoors to keep them out of harm’s way.

“So sometimes it’s even a safety issue that these families are saying, we don’t want you going out.  Well, it’s real hard to get more adequate physical activity when you live in a beautiful one room house that you share with four other people.  So it gets very difficult to promote the activity sometimes,” said Madden.

Madden went on to say that diabetes is showing up in low numbers in children in Africa, but is exploding among the age group of 20- to 60-year-olds.  He said this age group is where they are seeing the largest proportions of deaths occurring.

“Type 2 diabetes typically develops over several months to several years.  And people often don’t know they have it.  It’s not uncommon in some of the villages of Africa for people to not even know they have diabetes. And in the big cities of Johannesburg, you look at different statistics on Africa, and it says depending on what city or town or village you are in, we could have people living with diabetes, and 40 to 70 to 80 percent of them may not know they have it,” he explained.

Madden highlighted an experience of an African girl with diabetes who said she wished she had AIDS instead.  When asked why, she said because there were so many deaths from diabetes, and her country provides drugs for AIDS, but none for diabetes.  Madden said Project Hope is working to change this perspective.  They are partnering with many groups and pharmaceutical companies to educate people and provide them with much-needed medicine to fight diabetes.

You May Like

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid