Working together to tackle diabetes
Diabetes is one of the most common non-communicable diseases worldwide. In Zimbabwe and Lesotho, SolidarMed is working with the World Diabetes Foundation to provide access to diabetes prevention, diagnosis and treatment for people in rural regions.
Diabetes causes around two million deaths a year, most of which are in low- and middle income countries. Particularly in rural regions of southern Africa, hospitals and health centres have until now been barely equipped to handle such non-communicable diseases, and so medical care and prevention are virtually non-existent. For example, a study by SolidarMed conducted in Zimbabwe in 2022 showed that many rural healthcare facilities are lacking basic equipment, for example to measure blood glucose or kidney function. This sort of equipment is essential in order to identify diabetes and determine its severity. There is also a shortage of staff trained in such metabolic disorders and people have very little awareness of the negative impact of their unbalanced diets.
SolidarMed is therefore expanding its activities in Zimbabwe and Lesotho to include non-communicable diseases like diabetes. The aim is to educate people about eating a healthy, balanced diet, and improve diagnosis and treatment for diabetes sufferers. This includes a range of measures, as Mikkel Pape Dysted knows well. He is programme manager at the World Diabetes Foundation, which co-funds SolidarMed’s diabetes projects. “On the one hand, training and equipment are needed so that healthcare facilities can even offer medical services in the first place,” he explains. “On the other, administration also needs to be improved.” This includes drawing up treatment guidelines, digitalising patient records and defining internal processes.
All these measures have to be adapted to local conditions. In Lesotho, SolidarMed focuses on community health workers in collaboration with the World Diabetes Foundation and many other partners. Community health workers are the link between healthcare facilities and village communities and therefore the backbone of the local health system. Besides HIV and prenatal care, they will also cover diseases such as diabetes in future. In Zimbabwe the focus is on rural healthcare facilities, where health workers are trained in treating patients with diabetes and the necessary infrastructure is being built. Here, too, community health workers are being educated on issues related to diabetes.
SolidarMed and the World Diabetes Foundation are ideal partners. SolidarMed has been working in Lesotho and Zimbabwe for decades and is very familiar with the health challenges there. It is also keen to integrate new measures into existing health systems. Meanwhile, the World Diabetes Foundation brings worldwide expertise in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes and provides the necessary funding. Both partners work closely with local health authorities. “We hope that this will allow us to improve diabetes care at a national level in the long term,” says Mikkel Pape Dysted. On a trip to Zimbabwe earlier this year, he once again saw for himself the sheer scale of the immediate need.
Treatment of non-communicable diseases
Thanks to SolidarMed, people in Lesotho know about their chronic illness and have access to treatment.