Ahead of World Diabetes Day on Sunday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has alerted that Africa’s death rates from COVID-19 infections are significantly higher in patients with diabetes.
This was revealed in a preliminary analysis the WHO presented Thursday in advance of the World Diabetes Day on 14 November.
The analysis alerted that Africa’s sharp increase in diabetes, noting that trend is clashing with the COVID-19 pandemic and poor access to vaccines.
“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,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“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.”
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 percent case fatality rate in patients with diabetes, compared with 2.5 percent 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 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.
An estimated 24 million people are living with diabetes in Africa in 2021 according to 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 percent compared with 2021. Africa is the region with the highest number of people who do not know their diagnosis – an estimated 70 percent of people with diabetes do not know they have the disease.