Progress in Africa despite the odds

WDF support to 95 diabetes related projects in Africa has helped address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases.

04 September 2013 Brit Larsen

Patients waiting to be attended at the diabetes clinic at Sekou Toure Regional Hospital, Mwanza, Tanzania. Photo: Brit Larsen

4 September 2013. In her speech at the WHO Regional Committee for Africa this week, the WHO Director General Margaret Chan said that “Few health systems are prepared to cope with an onslaught of chronic non-communicable diseases or with the Africa Region’s growing population of the elderly.”

Yet, she also emphasised that some African countries have addressed these and other barriers and made progress despite the odds. “Progress is being made. Old problems are being solved. And new opportunities are opening,” she said.

National level NCD strategies in six African countries

The World Diabetes Foundation has funded diabetes related projects in Africa since 2003 now totalling 95 projects. Common for all projects is to create improved access to diabetes care, and as Chan mentions some countries in Africa have made progress on this flank.

With funding from WDF, five African countries now have national level strategies in place to address the burden of non-communicable diseases: Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and The United Republic of Tanzania including Zanzibar. Furthermore, funding has been granted to a national level programme in Mozambique but it has not yet taken off.

“After having supported small scale projects in all six countries, we saw that appropriate capacity was in place to support larger national level programmes. WDF therefore decided to grant financial support to the Ministries of Health to roll out the NCD programmes at national level,” says WDF Managing Director, Dr Anders Dejgaard.

In alignment with the WHO Global Action Plan

“Not all countries are ready to launch national programmes, but our strategy is the same in all countries: to slowly build capacity and ownership among the local health authorities for them to address the growing burden of diabetes and non-communicable diseases across the African continent. This is a clear notion that the WDF is trying to work in tandem with the recent WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases and formulated indicators to work with local partners,” Dr Dejgaard concludes.

The International Diabetes Federation estimates a 90% increase in the number of people living with diabetes in Africa between 2011 and 2030 (from 14.7 million to 28 million).

In general terms, national level programmes funded by the WDF have two main components. The first component is the development and endorsement by the national health authorities of a national diabetes/NCD policy or strategy and establishment of standards and guidelines for prevention, care and control of the diseases which ensure implementation of best practices. The second component focuses on capacity building of health care including the establishment of diabetes/NCD clinics with needed equipment and training of health care professionals.

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