You may not think of NCDs as a problem that affects children. But NCDs such as diabetes can occur in people of all ages. Shammah, for example, is 12 years-old and has diabetes.
Diabetes can be especially difficult to diagnose when patients are young, and it requires specialized clinical expertise to manage. Shammah and his family in Uganda found out the hard way that he had diabetes. Shammah fell ill when he was only two years old. Doctors misdiagnosed him with malaria and gave him a glucose treatment, which put little Shammah into a diabetic coma.
Today, Shammah’s diabetes is under control. But people like him with type 1 diabetes need food and insulin every day. If Shammah takes his insulin and has no food, his blood glucose levels will drop dangerously low; food without insulin can be equally deadly. So Shammah’s family must make sure that he has access to ongoing care, insulin, refrigeration for his insulin, and a good balanced diet.
In low-resource communities, all-of-the-above is not easy to come by. Local health clinics may not always have insulin in stock and, when it is, the cost may be too expensive. Despite their best efforts, families that aren’t connected to reliable public transit, an electricity source, or well-stocked health clinics will face enormous difficulties keeping a child who has diabetes healthy.
At today’s rate of funding to address NCDs, more and more families will face these access challenges. According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes cases in Africa are projected to more than double from 14 million to 34 million by 2040. But here’s the silver lining. We already have the solutions to preventing and managing diabetes. It’s only a matter of putting them into practice. Support the movement to increase access to essential medicines.