Nearly one in five of Africa’s Covid-19 deaths related to diabetes

With most people living with diabetes across the continent unaware of their status, this is likely to complicate the region’s Covid-19 efforts.

The World Health Organization estimates 18.3 percent of Africa’s Covid-19 deaths related to diabetes. The condition has been found to increase the risk of severe illness, prolonged hospital stays and death among those infected. Based on data from 14 African countries, the findings show the risk of Covid-19 related complications or death in diabetic patients increases with age, placing those aged 60 years and older at a much higher risk. With the continent having surpassed the 2 million cases mark a few days ago, Africa's policy makers would need to rethink their approach if the picture is to change.

Data shows the occurrence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically across the world over the past three decades. African itself has seen an outstanding six-fold increase, with cases rising from 4 million in 1980 to 25 million in 2014. These are expected to continue increasing exponentially over the next 25 years, further compounding the problem. With around 60% of Africans living with diabetes undiagnosed, the region has the highest proportion of people unaware of their status compared to the rest of the world – a phenomenon expected to complicate efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic.