Namibia: Malnourished and Diabetic At 17

20 November 2022

At the age of only 17, Laimi Shitapata suffers from malnutrition and diabetes.

Shitapata injects herself with insulin every morning and evening, while wondering where to get her next meal from.

She was suffering for more than three years before she was diagnosed with diabetes and malnutrition, and was forced to drop out of Onakale Combined School at Oshakati due to an unknown condition at the time.

Shipata is currently bedridden and in hospital.

"We have taken her to so many hospitals in the north, but they could not identify the cause of her severe pain," says Shitapata's uncle, Immanuel Shitapata, who eventually brought his niece to Windhoek for better medical care.

He says Shitapata was losing a lot of weight, so he took her to Black Chain Clinic at Katutura in June, where she was immediately diagnosed with diabetes.

"We were also informed she is suffering from malnutrition, which really hurts me, because food is a struggle and she barely gets enough food," he says.

Immanuel says the main issue they are experiencing as a family is a lack of food.

He says Laimi would sometimes get food from a soup kitchen named Charity Work Havana.

"I also provide when I can, although it sometimes is such a struggle, because I do not earn enough money.

"Please help us. I don't need help, but she really does. I took her from the north because there was no one to take care of her," he says.

Immanuel says the family needs a woman or anybody who can help take care of Shitapata, because he does not always know how to go about it.

The family is pleading for food, blankets and clothing.

Immanuel says he is currently in the process of applying for a social grant for Laimi to allow him to buy her some clothes.

"I have spoken to so many people in my family to help her, but no one wants to take up that responsibility," he says.

According to a doctor at Katutura Intermediate Hospital, Laimi's diabetes may have been caused by starvation.

"This is not the first time she is being admitted here, but we noticed that she is really starving, and that she has no one to take care of her," he says.

According to the World Health Organisation, diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which over time leads to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

The most common is type 2 diabetes, usually in adults, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn't make enough insulin.

In the past three decades, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically in countries of all income levels.

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin by itself.

For diabetics access to affordable treatment, including insulin, is critical to their survival. There is a globally agreed target to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025.

Speaking to Desert Radio on diabetes this week, was the deputy minister of health and social services, Esther Muinjangue.

She said there has been a rise of 4,03% in diabetes cases in Namibia this year.

Muinjangue said much more has to be done to lower the rate to 0,88%, which is the target goal for the ministry of as per the strategic plan which runs until the end of December.

"In Namibia 1 105 people in the last months, were diagnosed with diabetes in 2022," she said.

According to Muinjangue, the rise means diabetes is not being well controlled, especially at home, or not being diagnosed at an early stage.

"Sometimes one may not be aware of the possible signs, such as blurred vision, excessive thirst, dizziness, frequent urination and many more," she said.

"The ministry is doing so much to reduce diabetes in Namibia, such as raising awareness, and introducing essential non-communicable disease interventions that can be delivered to high-quality care to primary facilities."

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