Diabetes gulps $4.5bn annually in Nigeria – Coalition

The National Action Plan on Sugar Reduction Coalition, NASR, on Monday said Diabetes directly costs Nigeria $4.5bn.

The coalition also said a diabetes patient spends at least N300,000 yearly on healthcare costs.

The coalition disclosed this in Abuja at an art exhibition in commemoration of the World Diabetes Day to draw public attention to the need for action to curtail the Non-Communicable Diseases risk from Sugar-Sweetened Beverages consumption and the burden they place on the health sector.

WDD is celebrated on November 14 to raise awareness of diabetes as a global public health issue and what needs to be done, collectively and individually, for better prevention, diagnosis, and management of the condition.

The theme for this year’s event is ‘Access to diabetes care.’

Speaking at the exhibition, the President of the Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Dr Alkali Mohammed, said diabetes can affect any part of the body.

He said, “We know that in Nigeria, most of the payment is out-of-pocket, so if you add the total costs of all the complications and how it affects any part of the body, that adds to the cost. Then the second component is the fact that people become less productive when they lose their eyesight or when they are sick, they don’t go to work.

“If the head of the family or if the mother is diabetic, and she cannot see, some members of the family that could have been productive elsewhere would be tied down to supporting them. So it has a multi-factorial component, and the amount could be more than that.”

According to him, about 537 million people are living with diabetes globally and it is projected that the figure could increase to 737 million by 2040 if nothing is done to curb the disease.

He noted that an estimated 11.2 million Nigerians are living with diabetes, and over 90 per cent of them have type 2 diabetes.

Advocating for an increase of tax on SSBs from 10 per cent to 20 per cent, the expert noted that the tax will improve the health culture and environment by discouraging sugary drink consumption.

“The tax will also raise some revenue for the government. Now, where we have a slight issue with the government is the fact that the government has not defined the utilisation of the 10 per cent taxes that have been collected for a year, it is added as part of the general increase of revenue in the country.

“The government does not fund the control and management of NCDs, including diabetes due to what they termed as paucity of funds. What we are saying is that the money generated, at least 60 per cent of it should be dedicated to increasing public enlightenment, prevention, subsidising of drugs, especially for diabetes patients, and enrolling some Nigerians with NCDs in the health insurance scheme,” he explained.

The co-chairman of the coalition and President of the Nigerian Cancer Society, Dr Adamu Umar, said Nigeria has the highest burden of diabetes in Africa.

“Diabetes is underreported and some people are living with the disease without knowing they have it, so the number we have today may be more because some people don’t know they are living with the disease.

“An event like this is an eye opener for policymakers to do the needful and increase awareness on what we eat, drink, and do to reduce the burden of NCDs, especially diabetes which has a lot to do with our lifestyles. We want proper implementation of the agreed tax to better the lives of diabetes patients,” he said.

The NASR coalition is a group of health organisations advocating for policy measures to curtail the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, linked to non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.