1,5 million Zimbabweans diabetic — Parirenyatwa

David Parirenyatwa

About 1,5 million Zimbabweans are diabetic, with some of them unaware they have the condition, Health minister David Parirenyatwa has revealed.

By Tatenda Chitagu

In a speech read on his behalf by Masvingo provincial medical director, Amadeus Shamhu at the World Diabetes Day commemorations held at Tshovani Stadium on Monday, Parirenyatwa said the prevalence rate could have risen, as the last survey was carried out in 2005.

“In Zimbabwe, the last statistics we have are from 2005 and our prevalence rate was 10% of the population. I believe the figures have risen to between 12 and 15% and that means up to 1,5 million are diabetic.

“Of those, half of the undiagnosed are not aware. Of these, 95% of the diabetes is type two, which is mainly caused by poor lifestyles namely consumption of too much starch, which is converted to fat, leading to obesity, hyperlipidaemia, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. This is compounded by lack of physical activity, which is very rampant in urban areas these days,” he said.

Parirenyatwa admitted that diabetes drugs were expensive, but said the Zimbabwe Diabetes Association (ZDA) is negotiating with drug manufacturer, Norvartis International Norvodsk to lower the prices.

A diabetic patient on drugs needs about $30 per month, minus the cost of the tests for sugar levels in their body, according to ZDA.

ZDA president, John Chamunorwa Mangwiro said diabetic patients face many challenges, which make it a double-edged sword to live with the disease in the country.

“The drugs are not affordable to most diabetic patients. We use old drugs, as new drugs are expensive. They also need to test themselves everyday, so that the sugar level is controlled. Diabetics also need self-test kits to measure the sugar levels in their bodies, but these self-test kits are very expensive and not widely available. We need to improve supply and cost,” he said.

“Once you are diabetic, you don’t just need to know. Awareness levels are very low. We need to have a massive campaign and encourage people to get tested.”

Mangwiro called on the government to subsidise diabetes drugs or give them for free like antiretroviral drugs, since diabetes has surpassed HIV and Aids and is among the top killer diseases.

He said lack of funding has stalled a recent diabetes survey, while donors are more focused on communicable diseases.