The number of people who suffer from diabetes in Africa is uncertain. The World Health Organisation estimated that there were seven and a half million people with the disease in 2000. With the lack of a regulated health service it is impossible to say what the number now stands at but it is certain that the number of people with diabetes is far higher and will continue to rise.
But why is this?
Africa is a continent synonymous with suffering. Whether it is the ravages of war, the starvation of failed crops or disease caused by the lack of clean water it seems strange that it can also be associated with such a western disease.
Type 2 diabetes is generally associated with long term exposure to a poor diet which can result in obesity which simply doesn’t fit with most peoples image of poorest Africa.
As with the western world the issue is indeed diet, as unexpected as that may seem. The problem stems from the very aid provided to Africa’s poorest people.
During times of famine the food provided by aid agencies is high energy and small volume. This means it can be distributed easily and can address the immediate problem of providing instant calories. This, however, can lead to longer term issues.
Diabetes is a condition in which there is a deficiency in insulin production. In simple terms insulin is required to move energy around the body from food that has been consumed. Type 1 diabetes is inherited and cannot be avoided. Type 2 diabetes can be avoided with a balanced diet.
Due to turmoils and changes in Africa there has been significant lifestyle changes. More people now lead century lives whereas before they were active. People consume more processed food which is an easy solution in the short term but extended exposure can lead to health problems. Lifestyles have changed but the education to lead healthy lives has not accompanied it.
Diagnosis of diabetes in Africa
So when someone becomes diabetic through poor diet and inactivity, what happens? The short and sad answer is, usually very little. There are many that go undiagnosed which, with a disease such as diabetes, can prove fatal.
Less extreme though just as horrifying is the breakdown of the body due to the condition. Without the adequate insulin to tell the body to take on energy the extremities, such as the feet and legs, can begin to die. This eventually leads to amputation to protect the patient.
With better education and food sources and more rigorous health checks these amputations can be avoided. Sadly this is a huge task and, as yet, doesn’t look likely in the near future. This is where Legs4Africa can help. We dream of a world where prosthetic legs aren’t needed in Africa, that peoples limbs can be saved but until that happens, we’re doing what we can to help one of the consequences of diabetes in Africa, if not the cause itself.
Follow us each step of the way…