Message from the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti

The international community commemorates World Diabetes Day on 14 November every year, to raise awareness of the growing burden of this disease, and strategies to prevent and manage the threat.
This year’s theme is again “Access to diabetes care”, as it was last year, and will be again in 2023, highlighting the importance of prevention and response efforts. 
Africa’s diabetes statistics illustrate the depth of the challenge: 24 million adults are currently living with diabetes, with that number predicted to swell by 129% to 55 million by 2045. Last year, Diabetes mellitus took the lives of 416 000 people on the continent, and is forecast to become one of the leading causes of death in Africa by 2030.
Importantly, diabetes is the only major noncommunicable disease (NCD) for which the risk of dying early is increasing, rather than decreasing.
Known risk factors include family history and increasing age, along with modifiable risk factors such as overweight and obesity, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, smoking and alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, these modifiable risk factors are on the rise across all countries in the WHO African Region. 
Response efforts are constrained by the fact that more than one in every two people in Africa living with Diabetes mellitus have never been diagnosed. Increased access to diagnostic tools and medicines, particularly insulin, is one of the most urgent areas of work. 
Left unchecked, and without management and lifestyle changes, diabetes can lead to several debilitating complications. These include heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, lower limb amputation, visual impairment, blindness, and nerve damage. People with diabetes are also at higher risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms.
To accelerate progress on diabetes and other NCDs, WHO developed the Global Diabetes Compact. Its vision is to reduce the negative impacts of the disease, and ensure that everyone living with diabetes has access to equitable, comprehensive, affordable, and quality treatment and care. 
During the 75th World Health Assembly in May this year, WHO Member States supported the creation of the first global targets for diabetes by 2030, as part of recommendations to strengthen and monitor diabetes responses within national NCD programmes. These include that 80% of people living with diabetes will be diagnosed, and have good control of their glycaemic levels and blood pressure; 60% of those older than 40 will be receiving treatment with statins; and 100% of people with Type 1 diabetes will have access to affordable insulin and blood glucose self-monitoring. 
At the 72nd WHO Regional Committee for Africa in August 2022, efforts to improve services to prevent and manage diabetes care, and achieve Universal Health Coverage, saw Ministers of Health from the continent adopt the PEN-Plus regional strategy. This is focused on integrating outpatient care for severe and chronic NCDs at first-referral level health facilities.
As such, the strategy calls for the strengthening of capacity at these facilities to diagnose and manage Type 1 diabetes, and other severe NCDs. Its implementation will reduce the number of deaths, and improve the quality of life of Africa’s children living with Type 1 diabetes.
Today, as we mark World Diabetes Day, I want to take this opportunity to appeal to governments of Member States to prioritise investment in essential products, such as insulin, glucometers and test strips. This is critical to ensure equitable accessibility for everyone living with diabetes, no matter where on the continent they are.
As WHO in the African Region, we commit our full support to the requisite training of health workers in the prevention and management of NCDs at district and community level, to improve availability of these services.
I would also like to urge African governments to adopt and customise the global targets for diabetes, as part of recommendations to strengthen and monitor diabetes responses within their national NCD programmes.
To Africa’s people, I cannot overemphasise the importance of healthy and balanced diets, combined with regular exercise, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol consumption. This will go a long way to protecting individuals from Type 2 diabetes and other NCDs.
Finally, to our partners, let’s join forces to support African governments to accelerate the implementation of WHO’s Package of Essential Noncommunicable (‎PEN)‎ disease and healthy lifestyle interventions, and PEN-Plus, and to improve access to diabetes care across the continent.
Let’s all unite and do our part to prevent unnecessary suffering, and save lives.


Learn more:
International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Atlas 10th edition 2021
Third round of the national pulse survey on continuity of essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic: November – December 2021
The WHO Global Diabetes Compact
WHO prioritizes access to diabetes and cancer treatments in new Essential Medicines Lists
Mbanya, JC. Mba, CM. Centenary of the discovery of insulin: People with diabetes in Africa still have poor access to insulin, E Clinical Medicine, The Lancet, 1 April 2021
WHO prioritizes access to diabetes and cancer treatments in new Essential Medicines Lists



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