Adopt local solution to Nigeria’s diabetes problem, Group charges FG

…says poor Nigerians suffer, die with no access to care
…tasks govt to prioritize action on diabetes

By Gabriel Ewepu and Alice Ekpang

AS health of Nigerians remain challenged by different terminal diseases, a coalition of non-governmental organisations, National Action on Sugar Reduction, NASR, yesterday, raised the alarm over 4 million Nigerians living with diabetes.

This was contained in a statement signed the representative of the coalition, Runcie Chidebe, as Nigeria joins rest of the world to mark the 2021 World Diabetes Day with theme ‘Access to Diabetes Care’.

The statement pointed that Nigerians who carriers of the deadly disease are mostly the poor who have no access to any form of care, while the death rate remains high among them.

According to the statement, a 2020 study links increased type 2 diabetes risk with high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, or soft drinks as they are commonly called.

It also made it known that Nigeria’s poorest suffer disproportionately from inadequate access to diabetes care.

The statement reads: “Every year on 14 November, World Diabetes Day is observed around the world. This year’s theme is ‘Access to Diabetes Care’.

“According to the World Health Organization, WHO, nearly 4 million Nigerians are living with diabetes, with type 2 diabetes being more common than type 1. The rates of type 2 diabetes are rising.

“The National Action on Sugar Reduction, NASR, a coalition of organisations advocating for policies to combat the impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Nigeria, maintains that this constitutes a public health emergency.

“A 2020 study links increased type 2 diabetes risk with high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, or soft drinks as they are commonly called.

“Recognizing that the Federal Ministry of Health considers non-communicable disease prevention a national priority, the NASR is asking the government to step up efforts towards implementing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The coalition maintains that tax funds can be earmarked for providing healthcare to the country’s low-income groups.

“For Nigeria’s urban poor, soft drinks are readily accessible, but basic aspects of diabetes care such as insulin and blood sugar monitoring devices remain far out of reach.”

Meanwhile, in the statement, Diabetes Association of Nigeria and Project Pink Blue, called on government to prioritise action on diabetes care by implementing Sugar-sweetened beverage taxes.

“Urgent government action is needed to implement mandatory and effective health policies to reduce the rising non-communicable disease rates, particularly type 2 diabetes in Nigeria.

“Sugar-sweetened beverage taxes have been successfully implemented in other countries like South Africa and Mexico. It is time for Nigeria to take this step.

“We cannot afford to see the detrimental health and economic effects of easy access to sugar-sweetened beverages go unchallenged.

“Revenue from the proposed tax can be used to fund diabetes care for Nigeria’s poor and vulnerable populations:, it added

Also, the statement referred to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, recently announcing a proposed pro-health tax increase on soft drinks in Nigeria in the 2022 budget, which it commended the GFederal Government for the bold step.

“During the Public Presentation and Breakdown of the Highlights of the 2022 Appropriation Bill, the minister said that the government will increase excise “duties on carbonated drinks in the 2021 Finance Act.

“In addition to the economic benefits of the tax, the Coalition recognizes the positive effect this will have on the health of Nigerians.

“The Coalition applauds the Federal Government for this significant step towards protecting the lives of Nigerians, but much needs to be done.”

However, the statement called for a specific excise duty of 20 per cent on all sugar-sweetened beverages and urged government to use the tax to fund the prevention and treatment of NCDs, including type 2 diabetes in Nigeria.

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