COVID-19 more deadly in Africans with diabetes.
A survey conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that African people who have diabetes and contract COVID-19 have a significant higher chance of dying.
This is according to WHO Africa Region’s Dr Benido Impouma, who was briefing the media ahead of World Diabetes Day which is expected to be observed on Sunday, 14 November.
Africa has recorded at least 8.5 million COVID-19 cases, 200 000 COVID-19 related deaths with only 6% of the population fully vaccinated against the virus.
"Preliminary analysis shows that death rates from COVID-19 are significantly higher in patients who also have diabetes. The survey of 13 countries conducted found more than 10% fatality rate in people who have diabetes compared with 2.5% for COVID-19 patients overall.
"This shows that fighting the diabetes epidemic in Africa is in many ways as critical as the battle against the current COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
Dr Impouma added that projections are that in the coming years, Africa is expected to have the highest increase in cases of diabetes globally which could be devastating with the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, the slow pace of COVID-19 vaccinations on the continent must be ramped up to avoid the impending health crisis the two illnesses together it might cause.
"When it comes to vaccinations, people with underlying conditions have been prioritised but Africa has faced challenges with this strategy. Data from nearly 40 countries finds that nearly 14% of all COVID-19 vaccination doses…have gone to Africans with underlying conditions.
"While there is some progress…we are nowhere near where we need to be with protecting our most vulnerable populations. There’s an urgent need to step up vaccinations and key services to people at higher risk," he said.
Dr Impouma said lockdowns throughout the continent have severely disrupted medical care for patients with diabetes and other diseases but, the organisation’s Global Diabetes Compact is assisting at least 21 African countries in to remedy the situation.
He pleaded with African countries to move quickly in testing for and treating diabetes within their populations.
"All Africans at risk to diabetes must have access to testing. In fact, about 70% of people in Africa who have diabetes are not aware that they have the chronic condition.
"Health officials in Africa should take advantage of the increased availability of low cost rapid diagnostics tests to routinely test patients to ensure early detection and proper care in centres…these centres can also be key venues for [COVID-19] vaccination," he said.
Dr Impouma said the continent is on a sustained downward trend of new COVID-19 cases in almost all regions of the continent.
He said although this is a great improvement, Southern Africa is currently facing an uptick of new cases.
"After dropping for 10 weeks in Africa, new cases have jumped by more than 60%. This is mostly due to a spike in Botswana but we are working closely with the ministry of health to explore or to understand why we are seeing this spike in Botswana," he said.
Dr Impouma also singled out the Republic of Congo, Mauritius and Egypt as showing increases.
"With these flare ups, there is no time to sit back and relax. We must do everything possible to prevent COVID-19 from gaining the upper hand," he said.