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Cameroonians Protest Insecurity Preventing Diabetes Treatment, Causing Deaths

FILE - A Type 2 diabetes patient gives himself an insulin shot before eating dinner at his home in Glenarden, Maryland, July 15, 2021.
FILE - A Type 2 diabetes patient gives himself an insulin shot before eating dinner at his home in Glenarden, Maryland, July 15, 2021.

In Cameroon, health workers and diabetics are marching on World Diabetes Day (Nov 14) to protest insecurity that is being blamed for a jump in deaths among diabetic patients. Health workers say Cameroon's separatist conflict and terrorism near the borders with Chad and Nigeria are preventing 70 percent of patients from being treated.

Scores of diabetics and hospital workers braved a heavy downpour in Cameroon's capital Yaoundé on Monday to march against what they call abuse of diabetes patients’ rights.

The protesters say Cameroon’s separatist conflict and Islamist militants on the borders with Chad and Nigeria are preventing diabetics from getting life-saving treatments.

45-year-old fish seller Pierre Marie Longsti is among the protesters.

He says many patients are dying of stress and lack of medication. Longsti says patients should not be restricted from going to hospitals in areas where there are conflicts and hospitals should not be targeted by armed men.

The government says Boko Haram militants in northern Cameroon and separatists in the country’s west often attack hospitals and abduct health care workers.

The latest on November 4 saw nine health workers abducted in the town of Batibo in Cameroon’s northwest region. Authorities blamed separatists, who denied responsibility.

Cameroon says many health workers have fled the fighting, which also makes delivery of hospital equipment and medication difficult.

During a program on state radio Monday, health officials said the number of people who died of diabetes in the regions’ hospitals jumped from 260 last year to nearly 400 so far this year.

But speaking on CRTV radio, the officials said most deaths occurred out of hospitals and went unreported.

The officials said most diabetes patients arrived at hospitals at critical stages because fighting and insecurity prevented them from getting needed treatments.

Sintieh Ngek is a medical staff member at Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services who took part in the protest.

He says most diabetic patients in the conflict areas cannot afford basic treatments such as insulin to manage their blood sugar.

"Very few patients can afford doing basic blood glucose monitoring. There are very few facilities that have readily available drugs to meet these patients," said Ngek. "Recently with the ongoing conflict, the quality of living has reduced, the cost of living has actually increased and so people would want to fend more for their food than buy insulin or medications."

Cameroon's ministry of public health said similar World Diabetes Day events took place near the northern border with Chad and Nigeria, and in the English-speaking western regions.

Anglophone separatists in Cameroon’s western regions have since 2017 been fighting to break away from the French-speaking majority, citing second class treatment.

Cameroon’s National Diabetes and Hypertension Program says about 9% of adults in urban areas live with diabetes, up from 6% in 2021.

The program says 80% of patients are undiagnosed and only a quarter of people with known diabetes have adequate control of their blood sugar.

Cameroon’s government blamed lack of physical exercise made worse by the COVID pandemic’s isolation measures, for increasing cases of diabetes.