HARARE - Zimbabwe's government must immediately enact a statutory instrument making diagnosis and treatment of diabetics at State hospitals free, the Diabetes Association (ZDA) has said.
John Mangwiro, ZDA president, spoke amid a dramatic increase in the number of people diagnosed with diabetes, and said the new regime must be given legal teeth through an Act of Parliament.
Mangwiro said diabetes was multiplying among Zimbabwe’s poor communities, and there was need to heavily subsidise diagnosis and treatment.
“We want government to help us access the machinery to screen for diabetics, affordable drugs and maybe have an Act that can say diabetics have their medicine free as well,” Mangwiro said.
“Insulin from place to place is sold for up to $20 and is normally just enough for a week. Some are still buying glucometres (machine for testing blood sugar levels) and they are very expensive at $45, strips are going $35 for 20. It becomes very expensive because the average Zimbabwean does not get that much."
Mangwiro said patients need about $80 every month for treatment. This has resulted in many of them defaulting on treatment, only to show up with complications at hospitals.
“If one goes to the rural areas, it is even worse because most cannot afford that. There should be an Act (of Parliament) which says diabetics should get these things for free just like for HIV,” he said on the side-lines of belated commemorations of World Diabetes Day in Harare.
The disease is estimated to be affecting one in every 10 people in Zimbabwe, including infants.
Diabetes is when a person’s blood glucose or sugar levels are too high. Over time, this can cause problems with other body functions, such as kidneys, nerves, feet, and eyes.
The condition also predisposes patients to heart disease and bone and joint disorders. World statistics show that 70 percent of all amputations are done as a consequence of diabetes.
However, the prevalence and impact of the disease can be minimised by following a healthy diet.
Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa said smoking is fuelling diabetic cases in Zimbabwe.
“Yes, tobacco is important for our economy but let’s do it more to export than consume. Smoking is not good for one’s health,” he said.