As Rwanda joined the rest of the world in celebrating the World Diabetes Day on November 14, the Rwanda Diabetes Association announced that two percent of Rwandans suffer from diabetes, commonly referred to as the silent killer.
The association further disclosed that 760 people below the age of 25 years are diabetic and warned that the numbers could be higher. This quashes the age-old belief that only elderly people suffer from the so-called lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and cancer among others.
The effects of diabetes on society are debilitating. First is the financial burden on society. According to the diabetes association, it takes a monthly average of Rwf 60,000 per patient to manage the disease.
On the other hand are the medical effects such as blindness, impotence, kidney failure, liver malfunction and amputation. In addition are other effects like premature job loss, disability and premature mortality making the country to forgo valuable labour.
Even worse is the revelation that medication cannot be acquired under the community health insurance scheme, Mutuelle de Sante, hence condemning low income earners, who often benefit from the community medical scheme, to their early graves.
But to reverse such this situation, we can all play a role in encouraging family members or close friends who have a history of diabetes or who are at a high risk of getting diabetes to take the first step and get tested.
It is never too late to have a check up; the sooner the better. Medics say that if one manages diabetes well, they can lead a normal life.
Also, if a focus is put on changing lifestyle, it is possible to prevent the disease.
As the saying goes: prevention is better than cure.
At the policy level, the Ministry of Health intends to conduct a survey to determine the number of diabetics in the country. While this is a welcome move to tackle the effects of the disease on society, there ought to be, a focused and tailor-made programme for the management and treatment of the disease as well as prevention.
The benefits of a structured plan will definitely ease the personal, family and societal burden of diabetes. Such a plan cannot be delayed and should be introduced in the shortest time possible.
Thus, let us all play our part in raising awareness on diabetes. We should also collectively ensure that World Diabetes Day was not just commemoration but an occasion that serves as a turning point to act on the ‘silent killer’.