Kenya may Now Provide Free Diabetes Treatment to Its Youth

by Tanya Thomas on Jul 14 2008 10:56 AM

In its latest health initiative, a Kenyan group called for free treatment for patients aged under 18 who had succumbed to the silent killer disease - diabetes. A minister has warned that the disease was a 'medical time bomb' in the east African country.

Intensive insulin therapy of daily injections costs up to 500 shillings (7.5 dollars, 4.7 euro) per day, said Eva Muchemi, the Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Center programmes chief, adding that 60 percent of Kenya's 35 million inhabitants live on less than a dollar a day.

''For something that you need to survive or cannot do without, insulin is still very expensive in public hospitals,'' she told a news conference here.

''We would like to be considered just like the people living with HIV/AIDS and have drugs given free.''

Kenya has offered free anti-retroviral therapy to AIDS patients in public hospitals since 2006, and has seen its prevalence rate drop from 5.9 percent in 2005 to the current 5.1 percent.

Public Health Minister Beth Mugo pledged to lobby for more funds to fight diabetes and said that authorities were shifting their focus to preventive measures since the condition, which affects blood sugar levels, is often diagnosed in its chronic stage.

''The ministry recognizes diabetes as a major health risk and 'a medical time bomb' that may catch Kenyans unawares,'' Mugo said.

Diabetes prevalence in Kenya is between six and 10 percent, with youths accounting for 15 percent of patients.

Type 2 diabetes is spreading in developed and developing countries as a result of traditional diets being abandoned for processed and junk foods, and people exercising less.

A less common form of diabetes called Type 1 is caused by permanent destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, and usually occurs early in life. It is lethal unless treated with insulin.

The International Diabetes Federation forecasts the number of cases -- including many adolescents -- will explode from 246 million today worldwide to 380 million by 2025.