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Experts take FG to task over childhood diabetes

By Sola Ogundipe
MEDICAL experts want Federal government to be more committed towards mitigating the plight of children assailed by diabeties, if the outbreak of a diabetes epidemic amongst Nigerian children is to be avoided in the near future.

Drawing attention to the rising incidence of diabetes among children in the country, Consultatnt Paediatrician and Endocrinologist at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State, Dr. Omolola Ayoola, observed that while childhood diabetes is not as common as the adult incidence of the disorder, global figures indicated that the incidence of paediatric and juvenile diabetes has doubled over the last decade.

Speaking in Lagos last week during the 7th Accu-Check Art Contest 2009 put together by Roche Diagnostics, Ayoola who is also senior lecturer at the health institution, lamented that government was not doing enough to stem the tide of increase of childhood diabetes.

“Government is doing nothing, but the truth is that diabetes is here with us. With children, the rate is also rising due to increased awareness. Now we are diagnosing children with diabetic coma who do not recover probably because there is availability of equipment for treatment and diagnosis.

“Ten years ago when I started at the UCH, a glucometer was not available and insulin was only for the very rich, it is still expensive now but more available. Lamenting that mortality is still high, and generally diabetes has been associated with endemic infections and also protein energy malnutrition (PEM), Ayoola says on the average, in a year, she sees five to 10 diabetic children.

“This has been increasing. Unfortunately at least three of them have died over time. Most of the deaths occurred because of little understanding of what was happening and abject poverty.

“There was one particular child that could only have insulin when the parents could afford to buy it and that was usually once or twice in a week, so the child would most probably have had very high blood glucose. When they come in in emergency, we do all we can for them, but we cannot affors to buy them insulin and that is a very big challenge. We are calling for increased awareness so that these children can stay alive.”

She said in the Nigerian environment the challenge of diagnosis and treatment is enormous especially as awareness among most medical practitioners is vey low. “For many parents of diabetic children, the first port of call is probably the chemist, so the diagnosis is not even made in many instances and eventuially many of these children prsent in a condition known as keto-acidosis. Actually, 95 per cent of the cases I reveiwed came in coma.

They had been to other places before somebody just decided to test the urine and refer them to UCH. The challenge is still very high and we want to increase awarness among health personnel. Not all fever and vomitting is malaria or diarrhoea, just check the urine for glucose. After the diagnosis we know what to do, but the wherewithal for the parent is not there because healthcare is very expensive and inaccessible.”

Also speaking, Dr. Abiola Oduwole, a Paediatric Endocrinologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL), argued that Federal government must have a commitment to Nigerian children.

“These children could be the cream of society in future but if we lose them because their parents cannot afford to purchase insulin or glucometer, it would be a tragedy. There should be a commitment from government with this kind of ailment that is life-long.

“If a child is diagnosed at five an has a life expectation of 80 years that means that child would have to live with the disease for 75 years. It really needs more attention from government”

She said the initiative of the art contest was specially designed for diabetic children to help them see they can achieve.

“It is an international programme designed to pick the child with the best artwork that depicts his or her dream for the future. The winners’ names will then be sent to Geneva . There would be occasions that these childen would feel the stress. Imagine if you have to prick yourself every morning, you cannot eat what you want, and you ahve to be treated differently because of an ailment that is manageable. We are only trying to to make them feel worthy of themselves.”

The experts agreed that so much has been done for communicable diseases but it was time to do much more for non-communicable diseases that affect children.

“These children need our help. Government needs to play its role more convicingly. We need government support, because managing diabetes is very expensive. These children need all the care and attention they can get.”


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