As Africans adopt unhealthier lifestyle choices, the disease is silently becoming one of the region’s greatest health threats.
In 2019, more than 430 million people across the world had diabetes, with 19 million of these living in sub-Saharan Africa. Worryingly, almost two-thirds of them were not even aware of the condition. Over the next 25 years, the region’s figures are expected to grow exponentially, reaching 45 million by 2045 as Africans’ lifestyles evolve. The Global Burden of Disease Study estimates diabetes to be the region’s fifth leading cause of death due to noncommunicable diseases, with stroke, ischaemic heart disease, congenital birth defects, and chronic liver diseases leading the pack.
Estimates by the International Diabetes Federation suggests the disease cost the region almost US$10 billion in 2019 – a figure expected to reach US$17.4 billion by 2045. With healthcare systems across the continent inadequately funded, the ramifications could be devastating. In addition, with evidence suggesting nearly one in five of the continent’s Covid-19 deaths are linked to diabetes, the region cannot afford to ignore the growing problem. If it is to contain the threat, the region would need to follow in the footsteps of countries such the US, India, Finland, India and Japan who have shown it is possible to prevent or delay the disease’s onset through lifestyle modifications.