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Diabetes menace in Kenya: Is there hope for the disadvantaged?

By Lilian Motanya | Feb 26th 2020 | 2 min read

Today I want to speak for the voiceless hoping that the concerned parties will hear and take action. I bring to your attention a condition that has been thrown under the carpet for a while—Diabetes.

Wait! You are probably thinking, “I am not diabetic, I don’t need to worry.” Well, you have every reason to worry because diabetes cases are rising at alarming rates. Deaths from the same epidemic have doubled in the past 3 decades. It would help if you were informed because the World Health Organization report of 2016 stated that one in every seventeen Kenyans is diabetic. According to the International Diabetes Federation, there were 458,900 diabetes cases in Kenya in 2017.

First things first, diabetes is a chronic illness where there are high levels of sugar in the blood. It arises due to the absence or inadequate levels of insulin in the pancreas hence impairing the body’s ability to process glucose. Despite being termed as a lifestyle and a manageable disease (especially type 2), many people are still getting diagnosed, and others are losing their lives to the same ailment.

Do you know what is more disheartening? It is the less disadvantaged in the society that experiences the pangs arising from the disease.

There are two contributing factors why this group is more vulnerable. First, they lack easy access to information about the disease. Such vital information includes how it can be prevented, diagnosed, or even managed.

Secondly, they lack finances to seek consultation, buy drugs or, properly manage it once diagnosed. The high cost of healthcare prevents many Kenyans from seeking medical help hence leading to severe complications and eventually death.

To put this into perspective, once you have been diagnosed with diabetes, a doctor will recommend you test your blood glucose at least four times each day. The average cost for a single strip is Sh50 which translates to Sh200 for a day’s glucose monitoring. This is without consideration of pills, insulin, meals and hospital fee.

 A day in the life of a person with diabetes costs a minimum of Sh400 if he or she was to manage the condition as recommended. While the rich can manage it and live healthy lives, the middle and poor class have to dig deeper into their pockets—pockets that are already dry. Don’t you think it could have been easier if the costs of treatment and drugs were subsidised? When one is not monitoring his or her blood glucose as required, incidents of hospital admission and diabetes-related complications like kidney failure increase and this ultimately puts a great strain on the economy of this great country.

Lilian Motanya is the Co-Founder of Diabetes Management Resource Center Kenya.

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