Rwanda: Diabetes Prevalence in Rwanda at 3% - MOH

15 November 2019

Grace Kantengwa, 67, a resident of Gakoni Cell, Kiramuruzi Sector in Gatsibo District, spent about one hour on Thursday morning in a queue, waiting to be screened for diabetes.

After her blood samples were taken, she was told a few minutes later that her glucose levels had started to rise and this puts her in a vulnerable position to contract diabetes.

"I have been told that if the glucose levels continue to increase, I risk having diabetes. I do not know what caused it but it may be because of the sugar intake, I have been advised on the kind of lifestyle I must adopt to stabilize," she said.

Like Kantengwa, all Rwandans are being urged to do regular check-ups even when they feel well, and take care of their nutrition to prevent diabetes, which is fully preventable if people can be careful with the kind of lifestyle they lead.

As Rwanda joined the international community to observe the World Diabetes Day, officials from Rwanda Biomedical Centre, observed that currently, at least three per cent of Rwandans have diabetes.

This, according to officials calls for caution to check on this prevalence.

At the national level the day was marked in Kiramuruzi, Gatsibo District, where at least 800 people were screened for diabetes and blood pressure, as part of the countrywide programme that started on Monday, November 11.

Although she did not know about her status, Kantengwa said she knew about diabetes and has seen people suffering from the disease, including in her neighbourhood.

Now that she knows her susceptibility to contract the Non-Communicable Disease, Kantengwa pointed out, she will be careful with the foods she eats as was advised to her by the medics and she said she will henceforth regularly go for checkup.

"They have told me that I should stop taking sugar, that I should eat more fruits, less tubers, average plantain, and no smoking nor alcohol, but I never consume either of those," she noted.

Simon-Pierre Niyonsenga, the director of diabetes at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said that diabetes, like other non-communicable diseases, is a global concern including in Rwanda.

"I would like to inform that a least 3 per cent in Rwanda have diabetes, in simple calculation, it is about one in thirty people," he said.

"The worst part is that one in two people who have diabetes is not aware of their sickness, that is why we encourage people to go for screening even though they might not be unwell, in order to reduce the chance of having it," he urged.

Niyonsenga said that although people at a young age must also check-up regularly to know their status, women above 35 years and men above 40 years are more at-risk.

The official said that they continue raising awareness to fight the disease, and they are increasing health facilities that screen for the disease.

François Gishoma, the chairperson of Rwanda Diabetes Association, said the association helps by raising awareness, and they have also opened a clinic that exclusively takes care of diabetes patients.

"We also help young people (with diabetes) by giving them medicines, and following up on them and educating them. We are also planning to reach out to their families, to enlighten them about how best to take care of the young patients such that the disease does not take their lives [early]," he said.

Diabetes is incurable, but the earlier one finds that they are sick, the longer they can live, he said.

About diabetes

There are three types of diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes: With a prevalence of more than 90 per cent among all types of diabetes, this type is characterised by the body being unable to metabolise sugar, which leads to high levels of blood glucose.

Type 1 Diabetes: This is sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes because it is commonly diagnosed in children, this type is an autoimmune disease that causes the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas to be destroyed.

Gestational Diabetes: The third type of diabetes occurs when one has high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes typically disappears after the baby is born.

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