Diabetes, hypertension, other non-communicable diseases top Covid-19 killers in Africa
London, Sep. 11, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Africans living with non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are more likely to suffer severe cases of Covid-19 and die, the World Health Organization says.
In Kenya, around half of Covid-19 deaths occurred in people with NCDs. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, such patients accounted for 85 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths.
According to a WHO preliminary analysis of 14 countries in the African region, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma are the co-morbidities most associated with Covid-19 patients.
These chronic conditions require continuous treatment, but as governments address the ongoing pandemic, health services for NCDs have been severely disrupted.
“Millions of Africans living with non-communicable diseases are at greater risk of complications or dying from Covid-19,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
“So it is very concerning to find that just when people with hypertension and other chronic conditions most need support, many are being left out in the cold.”
In a WHO survey of 41 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 22 per cent of countries reported that only emergency inpatient care for chronic conditions is available, while 37 per cent of countries reported that outpatient care is limited.
Hypertension management has been disrupted in 59 per cent of the countries, while diabetic complications management has been disrupted in 56 per cent of the countries.
The closure or slowdown in services is likely to further aggravate the underlying conditions of patients, leading to more severe cases of NCDs. It also worsens the risks of people living with chronic conditions to Covid-19.
WHO is working with countries to identify the challenges associated with providing essential services for people with NCDs and is supporting governments to implement strategies to increase service availability.
In moving forward, WHO recommends controlling the use of tobacco and alcohol because both increase the risk of NCDs.
It is also important to ensure quality primary care and referral systems to help people obtain the right treatment at the right time. There should also be a range of medicines and techniques available to support early diagnosis and treatment of NCDs.
Dr Moeti was joined by Dr Aggrey Mweemba, head clinical care, Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital in Zambia and Dr Mary Amuyunzu-Nyamongo, executive director, African Institute for Health and Development in Kenya in a virtual press conference on Covid-19.