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Africans with Diabetes Face Higher Rate of COVID-19

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Diabetes

By Adedapo Adesanya

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that Africa’s death rates from COVID-19 infections are significantly higher in patients with diabetes, according to a preliminary analysis.

At a presentation on Thursday, the global health watchdog said that Africa’s sharp increase in diabetes was clashing with the COVID-19 pandemic and poor access to vaccines.

According to Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, “COVID-19 is delivering a clear message: fighting the diabetes epidemic in Africa is in many ways as critical as the battle against the current pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually subside, but Africa is projected in the coming years to experience the highest increase in diabetes globally. We must act now to prevent new cases, vaccinate people who have this condition and, equally importantly, identify and support the millions of Africans unaware they are suffering from this silent killer.”

Diabetes impairs the body’s ability to produce or process insulin, a substance essential to counteracting a dangerous rise in blood sugar. The disease causes inflammation and poor blood circulation, both of which increase the risk of complications, including death, from COVID-19.

A recent WHO analysis evaluated data from 13 countries on underlying conditions or comorbidities in Africans who tested positive for COVID-19. It revealed a 10.2 per cent case fatality rate in patients with diabetes, compared with 2.5 per cent for COVID-19 patients overall.

The case fatality rate for people with diabetes was also twice as high as the fatality rate among patients suffering from any comorbidity. In addition to people with diabetes, the three most frequent underlying conditions included patients with HIV and hypertension.

The countries contributing data to the analysis were Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Guinea, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sao Tome and Principe and Uganda.

In a statement, WHO revealed that an estimated 24 million people are living with diabetes in Africa in 2021 citing data from the International Diabetes Federation and the continent is expected to experience the highest increase in diabetes globally, with the number of Africans suffering from the disease predicted to rise to 55 million by 2045, an increase of 134 per cent compared with 2021.

It noted that Africa is the region with the highest number of people who do not know their diagnosis – an estimated 70 per cent of people with diabetes do not know they have the disease.

On his part, Dr Benido Impouma, Director, Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases Cluster at WHO Regional Office for Africa added that since the early days of the pandemic, people with diabetes in countries around the world have been prioritized to receive COVID-19 vaccinations but Africa has faced challenges in this strategy.

“Health officials in Africa should take advantage of the growing availability of low-cost rapid diagnostic tests to routinely test patients in diabetes centres to ensure early detection and proper care. These centres also can be key venues for vaccination.”

Speaking further, Dr Moeti noted that, “Nine months since COVID-19 vaccination campaigns began in Africa, we are still nowhere near where we need to be with protecting our most vulnerable.

“There is an urgent need to step up vaccination and other key services to people at high risk, including those with diabetes.

“All Africans at risk of diabetes must have access to testing. We can also stop diabetes from claiming more lives by promoting healthy, affordable diets and regular exercise.”

In addition to COVID-19 risks, diabetes can also increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, lower limb amputation, visual impairment, blindness and nerve damage, including erectile dysfunction.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to diabetes care has been severely disrupted in the African Region. Lockdowns to limit the spread of COVID-19, for example, have impeded access to health care and the basic elements of proper disease management, such as routine glucose monitoring and eating a healthy diet.

To improve equitable access to quality diabetes care, WHO launched the Global Diabetes Compact in April 2021. This builds on work in recent years to roll out the WHO Package of Essential Noncommunicable Disease (WHO PEN) interventions for primary health care in low-resource settings.

So far, 21 African countries have started using this package. Benin, Eritrea, Eswatini, Lesotho and Togo have achieved national expansion covering all primary health care facilities.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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NPHCDA, WHO to Boost Disease Immunity in 13 High-Risk States

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health sector

By Adedapo Adesanya

The National Primary Health Care and Development Agency (NPHCDA), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, and partners are working to boost population immunity against measles, meningitis, and yellow fever in 13 high-risk states in Nigeria.

Along this line, the Taraba State Government recently flagged off an integrated vaccination campaign to strengthen the immunization of residents against three vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD) – measles, meningitis and yellow fever. The campaign targets to reach over 4 million people in the state with the three antigens.

To launch the exercise at a ceremony in Jalingo, the state’s capital, the Governor, Mr Darius Ishaku, urged eligible residents in the state to get vaccinated for protection against diseases.

He said “the integrated vaccination campaign from the 17 to 27 of November 2021 is the first of its kind in Nigeria because we will be administering three vaccines concurrently – yellow fever for persons, nine months to 44 years, measles 9 to 59 months and Meningitis (Men A) 7-8 years.”

Calling for the continuous support of the leaders and partners, Mr Ishaku urged all community leaders to canvass their people to receive the vaccination to keep preventable diseases at bay in the state.

“Although Nigeria continues to experience an upsurge of some of these diseases, we are working assiduously and committed to bringing them to a bearable level. I appreciate the roles of our partners for the enormous support which is contributing to the successes recorded in this state,” he said.

Meanwhile, the flag-off was performed simultaneously in Zing Local Government Area (LGA) of the state. The campaign will cover all the 167 political wards of the 16 LGAs and the Yangtu Special Development Area (SDA) for the benefit of women and other residents in the area.

At Zing LGA, the flag-off was attended by traditional and religious leaders, the Vice Chairman of the LGA, officials of the State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA), and community members.

This year, Nigeria has recorded sporadic outbreaks of yellow fever, measles, and meningitis due to low routine immunization coverage

Buttressing the importance of the campaign in Zing, the Deputy Director SPHCDA, Mr Matthew Yudaba, urged the residents to get vaccinated as the state and partners are working effortlessly to keep them safe from vaccine-preventable diseases.

The integrated vaccination campaign started in Taraba state is part of the campaigns scheduled to hold in 12 other states. The campaigns target to reach more than 47 million people with lifesaving vaccines.

The other states to benefit are Abia, Bayelsa, Borno, Ebonyi, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Sokoto, and Yobe. The exercise aims to attain high levels of population immunity by reaching/protecting children unreached by routine immunization services for measles and meningitis. It also serves to protect at-risk populations against yellow fever.

Measles, meningitis, and yellow fever are highly contagious viral diseases. The diseases remain the cause of death among young children and adults, despite the availability of safe and effective vaccines.

This year, Nigeria has recorded sporadic outbreaks of yellow fever, measles, and meningitis due to low routine immunization coverage. In addition, the country is within the meningitis belt, where the incidence rate for meningitis is very high, especially in the North.

As of November 11, 2021, Nigeria recorded 13 766 suspected measles cases with 9 135 confirmed. A total of 46 suspected cases of Cerebral Spinal meningitis were reported as of 4 November 2021. Also, on October 21, 2021, over 1600 suspected yellow fever cases with 40 confirmed cases have been recorded.

The yellow fever campaign is critical to achieving the Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) strategy. The strategy steered by WHO, Gavi and UNICEF, seeks to protect at-risk populations, prevent international spread and contain outbreaks rapidly.

Commenting on the importance of the exercise, the WHO State Coordinator, Mr Ismali Farouk Umar said that these integrated campaigns (yellow fever, measles, and meningitis) are in line with Global and country strategies for measles, yellow fever, and meningitis control.

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Health

My Encounter with a Nigerian Healthcare Professional

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Nigerian Healthcare Professional

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

This piece stemmed from an unusual occurrence/event which glaringly did more than anything else to support the claim by well-meaning Nigerians that a healthcare professional does not feel bound to seriously observe basic standards of care or are generally unwilling to accept responsibility for their failure to deliver expected quality services.

It was an extract of a mental account on Saturday, November 6, 2021, at Ketu Lagos, where/when my son Pascal Onyinyechukukwu Utomi (now late) suffered a health crisis. To assist the innocent boy arrest the troubling reality, we (myself, the mother/my wife and a very good neighbour), went to one of the private hospitals in the neighbourhood. The hospital gate was firmly locked and understandable as it was dead in the night.

To get the needed attention, I thus pleaded: please help! Help!! Help!!! Emergency! Emergency!! Emergency!!! Some minutes later, one of the hospital’s personnel walked but leisurely towards us. Without getting close to the gate or enquires what the situation was, he, to our astonishment initiated the following conversation;

It will cost you a certain amount to obtain the hospital card. I responded; no problem. He again fired; you need to pay another Naira as a deposit (this time around mentioning a bigger amount). Yet again, I responded, no problem. And the next statement he uttered was; can I have the money? Looking at the time, to meet this demand, I pleaded that he assists me with the hospital’s account number to make the transfer or better still allow me to pay with my ATM card/POS as I do not have much cash on me.

At this point, I received what met the criteria of unimaginable and unexpected response!

Let’s listen to him; we cannot accept transfer/POS at this time of the night. Besides, our Oga (boss) who will confirm the transaction alert/notification is not here and we don’t have the power to wake him from his sleep.

So, can I pay cash tomorrow morning, I queried? No, he responded. Then, what is the way forward? We cannot help, he declared.

With this concluding statement and without consideration to the dying innocent boy, he slowly left us in the cold to our fate and walked back to the main building where he firmly locked the door.

We were left with no other option than to move to another hospital where he finally got admitted but the experience/services were not too different from the first.

Indeed, while the above accounts typify one out of millions of unavailability of quality services, failure of oversight and the impunity of healthcare professionals in both private and public healthcare sector in Nigeria, using the right to health as thematic focal points, there are ingrained reasons that render such development as not just a crisis but paint the public and private health operators in the country as both inefficient and culprits of poor health care providers.

First, the questions that are as important as the piece itself are; what has happened to the strengthened accountability mechanisms relevant to healthcare delivery in Nigeria? How can the nation ensure greater responsibility and accountability of healthcare facilities and professionals in the country? Which one should come first when considering treatment of patents, monetary gain or burning desire to save lives? If it is a desire to save lives, why are medical operators in the country so insensitive to the plights of Nigerians? Why are governments at all levels in Nigeria reputed for poor funding of the health sector?

Have medical professionals in the country forgotten that maximum/quality services provided with efficiency and under the cost-effective arrangement are more profitable than abnormal or counterfeit services as currently witnessed by Nigerians?

Also troubling is the fact that our nation’s health institutions (both private and public) are still unmindful of the fact that serving the people is a serious responsibility and the people involved must abide by the code of conduct and strive to remain within certain limits. This goal should be achieved in an environment of positive and fair competition. They must provide Nigerians with the opportunity to access quality health services without falling prey to fake or any unlawful service or practices.

Talking about the right to health, it is worth mentioning that Nigeria voluntarily assumed obligations to respect, promote, protect and fulfil the right to health under major regional and international human rights instruments, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

As noted elsewhere, by the Revised National Policy on Health (2004), “health and access to quality and affordable healthcare is a human right”.

It declares further that “a high level of efficiency and accountability shall be maintained in the development and management of the national health system.”

In its declaration of commitment, the policy asserts that “the people of this nation have the right to participate individually and collectively in the planning and implementation of their healthcare . . . this is not only their right but also their solemn duty.”

So, why is it that these principles and values are yet to permeate the “development and management” of healthcare planning and delivery systems? It is a lamentable development that many healthcare professionals and institutions lack knowledge of the existence of the policy let alone the ideas, principles, targets and expectations that the policy embodies.

This is not the only concern about the nation’s health sector. There are others that are more government-specific in outlook.

Take, as an illustration, Nigerians are particularly not happy that the capital flight lost to medical tourism in one year by Nigerians is huge enough to build a world-class hospital in this country that can attend to these needs, create employment, bring back the array of Nigerian medical specialists littered the world over and bring foreign earnings to our nation’s coffers.

They are not happy that the same medical tourism which in 2017 alone kept our dear president away for about 150 days is left without anything dramatic done to redress or forestall such future occurrence.

And sadly, Nigerians will continue to ‘cry’ because they are tired of going through this state-sponsored human degradation.

It will, however, be of considerable significance to this discussion if the FG realizes that globally, there is no codified principle for lifting a nation from poverty to prosperity. All that is needed is for the FG to go the extra mile to accelerate economic development, social progress and get deeply committed to developing strategies that will guarantee the protection of lives and property of Nigerians while holding health workers (private and public) accountable for their professional misdeed.

Jerome-Mario Utomi, Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), wrote from Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com or 08032725374.

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Health

FG Tasks Firms to Emulate Airtel’s Consistent Investments in Health Sector

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Airtel Consistent Investments

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Companies operating in Nigeria have been tasked by the federal government to emulate the consistent investments of Airtel Nigeria in the health sector.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, while speaking on Saturday in Lagos, stated that the telecommunications giant has deepened access to quality and affordable healthcare in Nigeria.

Mr Ehanire was in Lagos over the weekend for the commissioning and handover of the newly refurbished Ward-A building of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Idi- Araba, Lagos.

Airtel, through the investment of N200 million, transformed and modernised the building into a state-of-the-art medical facility and equipped it with cutting-edge connectivity technologies.

The Minister, who was impressed, disclosed that the project will engender access to improved medical care for Nigerians and will further increase the capacity of LUTH to deliver on its performance objectives.

He further disclosed that the efforts of Airtel align with the federal government’s Next Level modernisation agenda for teaching hospitals to improve quality of care for Nigerians, thanking the company for offering support to LUTH and other government institutions during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would like to extend the appreciation of the Government to Airtel Nigeria for this excellent project, which, I am sure will improve the quality of medical care in LUTH.

“I am happy to note that Airtel Nigeria walked each step of the COVID-19 journey partnering with LUTH – a partnership which also saw the company donate 81 telephone lines to the hospital’s Psychosocial and Emotional Support Group, which reached out to provide psychosocial support to patients and their families following COVID-19 diagnosis, and reached over 20,000 patients in the Lagos metropolis, with Airtime provided for months in each phone line,” he stated.

Mr Osagie said the support of Airtel and other corporate organisations will help bridge the existing gap in the sector as well as deepen the quality of healthcare in the country.

In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Professor Chris Bode, stated that, “At the height of the first wave of the pandemic outbreak in Lagos between May and June 2020, the fear of a possible upsurge requiring more bed-space for admissions was real.

“Airtel Nigeria rose to the occasion, offering to help LUTH rehabilitate Block A to operationalise another 111-bed capacity at a cost of over N200 million. Airtel Nigeria stripped the building from rooftop to floor-based and replaced it, plumbing and all,” he stated.

“Our unreserved gratitude goes to Airtel Nigeria for this far-sighted good deed. If five Multinationals in Nigeria would do what your company has done for us yearly, life will be paradise on earth,” he added.

In his response, the Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Airtel Africa Plc, said the inauguration of the renovated facility bears eloquent testimony to Airtel’s drive to make a positive impact through sustainability, noting that the first pillar of Airtel’s newly unveiled Sustainability programme is to ensure inclusion leveraging on world-class infrastructure as well as connectivity.

“I felicitate with LUTH and the entire Nigerian health ecosystem as this project signifies how ‘little steps’ can make a huge difference. I thank the leadership of LUTH for choosing to partner with us in positively impacting the lives of Nigerians, especially the underprivileged.

“At Airtel, our vision is to Transform Lives and to promote inclusion whether it is digital, financial, social or healthcare. This vision is at the heart of our newly launched sustainability framework,” he said.

In his submission, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Airtel Nigeria, Mr Chemmenkotil Surendran, noted that Airtel is committed to transforming lives and fulfilling its promises.

“For us at Airtel, today also holds special significance because we have kept to our word and promise. Some months ago, we approached the Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Professor Chris Bode to make known our intention to partner with LUTH in delivering quality and affordable healthcare to Nigerians, especially the vulnerable, hard to reach and underprivileged.

“We later announced our intention to pledge N200 million to renovate and upgrade the technological architecture of the building. Today, I am glad to share that we have fully redeemed our pledge,” he stated.

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