Interview: Diabetes in Nigeria

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Poor knowledge and awareness of type 1 diabetes in Nigeria, especially among mothers, makes it difficult to explain what is wrong with children when symptoms of type 1 are demonstrated. "Most parents also fail to follow-up after treatment with a high level of non-compliance to insulin use," says Hakeem of the NGdoc. 

While these are sad facts, the newly created Nigerian Diabetes Online Community is already making an impact in the world of diabetes by creating a platform for diabetics in Nigeria to come together to talk, learn, and share. They hope that raising awareness can allow more education about the condition, further open-mindedness in society towards diabetics, and acceptance of ones own diabetic burden. This in turn can lead to faster diagnosis and lasting treatment of diabetes.

I was able to ask two representatives of the NGdoc, Odewale Haleemah and Adejumo Hakeem, some questions about the project and its current activities.

Can you tell me a little bit about the background of the Nigerian Diabetes Online Community such as how it was started and why?

The NGdoc was created about a month ago (1st of March) through the notable work and achievement of the global diabetes online communities around the world. Social media use is increasing in Nigeria with majority of the youths being involved in its use. The NGdoc was thus created to empower and educate people about Diabetes using online social platforms.

The level of knowledge, awareness, attitude and care for Diabetes in Nigeria is low and as such the NGdoc serves as an educative, promotional tool using the peer social support platform for PWD, caregivers, families and friends.

How has the NGdoc grown since it began?

Since the NGdoc started it has enjoyed steady growth with Nigerians getting involved as each day goes by. Nigerian PWDs now feel comfortable identifying themselves with the DOC worldwide.

Part of your aim is to raise awareness and advocate for diabetics, what would you say are some of the biggest obstacles for type 1 diabetics in Nigeria?

The obstacles for Nigerian T1DM (and other PWD in general) are many, ranging from poor education about Diabetes, under-utilization of health services (as people still find hospitals culturally irrelevant).

The poor knowledge of signs and symptoms of Diabetes in children makes parents unaware of children affected with Diabetes. This also accounts for late presentation at clinics, especially when complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis have set in.

​Access to insulin, its affordability and storage is also a major factor affecting children who have been diagnosed.


Can you explain a bit more what you mean when you say that “people still find hospitals culturally irrelevant”?

Religion and culture are the bedrock of African civilization and as such are totally embedded in the belief systems of people. Most people, especially the uneducated, still believe hospitals to be a western influence, and they believe strongly in the efficacy of herbs in curing all forms of illnesses. This of course results in late presentation and earlier onset of complications. With education and efforts of public health specialists, quite a number have been influenced into early diagnosis, with religious and cultural institutions being encouraged on health education for their members.

Another one of your objectives is ‘’to coordinate and interact with other organizations and initiatives working together towards the collective aim of Diabetes Prevention and Care in Nigeria’’. Can you tell me a about any of the organizations that you partner with and how you work together?

Currently, we are working with national and multinational organizations with the aim of improving diabetes care in Nigeria. James Elliot, project manager for the Canadian diabetes association, is helping out with the International Diabetes Federation charter and rights of people with Diabetes in Nigeria. We are also doing this in collaboration with the health reform foundation of Nigeria (HERFON).

We are also partnering with the paediatric unit of Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu, Ogun state, Nigeria to make insulin accessible to T1 children. We hope to improve community awareness of DM both in children and adults through distribution of a pictogram at learning centers, among other initiatives.

And how does the NGdoc tie in with the Global Diabetes online community?

The Nigeria diabetes online community is an offshoot of the global doc which is meant to be established in every nation, more about the Global DOC can be found here. So we are more or less together, through support, initiatives and collaborations.

Can you give some details about how the Nigeria DOC utilizes social media in its work?

For now, the NGdoc uses social media for its campaign to reach out to individuals, educating them about diabetes, encouraging them to join the NGdoc. We also host interviews for PWDs as well as interactive tweetchats in order to raise awareness for diabetes, and we hope to be able to use influential and notable people on social media to help the NGdoc grow and access every Nigerian. The NGdoc also has a blog, which is regularly updated.

What is the biggest way that someone who wants to help change the situation for diabetics in Nigeria can support the NGdoc?

The NGdoc is strictly a non-governmental, non-profit making group and anyone who wants to help can do so by joining us in raising awareness about our activities.

We do not accept cash nor solicit for funds, but we partner with organizations who are interested in helping Nigerian PWDs. Should any PWD require help, we try to connect such individuals in need to any organization or individuals which have volunteered to help.

Thanks to representatives from the NGdoc for answering our questions and working towards better lives for diabetics in Nigeria and worldwide. You can follow @theNGdoc on Twitter to keep up with their regular chats and updates.

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