Thousands participate in diabetes walk in Nairobi

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore participates in the walk/ Muthoni Njuki

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 7 – Over 12,000 Kenyans gathered at the Carnivore grounds in Nairobi on Saturday morning to take part in the annual Safaricom Diabetes Walk that is designed to bring awareness to the disease and raise money to supply free insulin to economically disadvantaged children.

The Diabetes Walk is organised by the Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Centre (DMI Centre). Executive Director Eva Muchemi said the fight against diabetes for the young people living with the condition has been hampered by lack of prompt and correct information, prohibitive costs of insulin in private pharmacies and inconsistent supply in public hospitals where insulin is more affordable.

“We have awareness programs in the schools and we have covered about 168 schools with 100 in Nairobi and about 68 in Mombasa with plans of expansion,” she said.

“The challenges are the attitudes of people towards diabetes. It’s a lifetime expense and a lifetime of using resources and looking after your body.”

The walk began at the Carnivore grounds to the Nyayo National Stadium and back to the Carnivore grounds.

Leading integrated communications company Safaricom Limited sponsored the walk for the 7th time in the events 11 year history and they pledged Sh5 million in sponsorship for this year’s walk.

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said that their support for the initiative is an acknowledgement of the important role DMI is playing in sensitizing the public on what is one of the most understated yet devastating diseases.

He said that he regretted that many people have been forced to put up with the heavy economic and emotional burden that diabetes presents, yet the condition is easily managed and prevented.

The first step for families to take is to get screened, said Collymore, adding that the focus should also be extended to children given the alarming statistics which indicate an increase in the number of people living with diabetes both in Kenya and globally.

“The reported prevalence ranges between 2.7 percent in the rural groups and 12.7 percent in urban areas. Further, the number of the people developing with type1 diabetes is on the rise,” he explained.

Collymore said the situation is further aggravated by the fact that 4 out of 5 people who have diabetes, live in low and middle-income countries, placing a strain on household incomes in already challenging economic conditions.

“The emotional and economic burden that Type 1 diabetes places on families can be overwhelming, but with proper information, this condition is manageable,” he emphasised.

“Yet we continue to wait for a cure for diabetes yet none exists. And as we wait, my mother who also has diabetes has to give herself at least four insulin shots a day and she also has to prick her fingers several times to check her blood sugar levels,” he revealed.

Safaricom and the DMI hope to raise Sh15 million that will help sustain an insulin bank for children below 18 years of age who are unable to purchase insulin, and people can contribute by purchasing t-shirts benefiting the fund.

Kenya has an estimated diabetes prevalence rate of 4.5 percent which translates to about 1.8 million people and it’s predicted that this figure will rise to 5.4 percent by 2025.

Every ten seconds a person dies from diabetes-related complications in the world and according to the International Diabetes Federation, Diabetes Atlas 2011, there were an estimated 385 million people with diabetes globally.

The Mombasa edition of the walk is scheduled for July 21 and Muchemi highlighted the importance of stepping up the sensitization campaigns.

“Lack of insulin remains the most common cause of death in children with diabetes and the life expectancy of a child who has just developed diabetes with no access to insulin is less than one year,” she stated.

“Many die undiagnosed, others through lack of insulin or expert care. In most developing countries, Kenya included where expert care is available, resources are scarce.” she added.