A group of six artistes in Gulu district are determined to use arts to create awareness about diabetes among the population in northern Uganda in the run up to November 14th World Diabetes Day.
The artistes who include musicians and poets have teamed up with volunteers under Support the Diabetes Organization (SUTEDO), a charity community based organization founded last year by diabetes caregivers in Gulu district. The artistes include award winning peace icon Jeff Korondo, Gospel singer Romeo Odong and the Northern Uganda giant Luo entertainer Okeng Born Town, while the poets include Paul Kalokwera and Geoffrey Kiiza amongst others.
The World Health Organization says in a 2016 Uganda Country profiles report that the chronic illness has a national prevalence of 2.7 percent and 3.0 percent among males and females respectively. According to the report, diabetes and other risk factors are steadily on the rise and it claimed the lives of 9,860 people last year alone.
Fred Onyango, the acting Executive Director of SUTEDO says some 500,000 people are estimated to live with the chronic illness listed among the world's top ten leading causes of death. He says out of 630 people tested during a charity walk SUTEDO organized last year, 94 were found with diabetes. This represents 15 percent, well above the global average prevalence of 10 percent.
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Geoffrey Kiiza, a Poet with Incliners Poetry Group and a volunteer at SUTEDO, says they are targeting market vendors in Gulu Main Market with this year's charity walk to get as many people tested as possible. He says awareness will be created through a mixture of music concerts, physical fitness activities and diabetes lectures slated to happen over two days beginning November 11th.
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The World Health Organization says Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failures, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.
Diabetes is a chronic disease which occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the hormone required to break down protein and produce energy for the body.
Dr. Beatrice Odongkara Mpora, the Medical Director at St. Veronica Clinic in Gulu, says sometimes the body develops resistance to available insulin it produces due to excessive fats accumulated, resulting into Type 2 Diabetes.
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Dr. Odongkara explains that Type 1 Diabetes affects persons under the age of 40 while Type 2 is mostly associated with obesity, weight gain, lack of physical exercise and unhealthy eating. Other types include pregnancy induced diabetes and maturity onset diabetes of the young which affects children under six months born with genetic abnormality. She says, unfortunately, mortality is high among the latter category.
Testing and tracking progress of management of diabetes among those that have been diagnosed with the chronic illness is very essential for the daily living of the patients. Unfortunately, equipment for achieving this important health goal are in the hands of private clinics who charge on average Uganda shillings 35,000 for a single test of blood sugar. This price is fairly unaffordable for resource-limited families in a post conflict situation.
SUTEDO hopes the various activities during this year's Charity Walk will raise Uganda Shillings 1.2 million for buying HBA1C machine for monitoring the management of glucose levels of those living with the disease. They also hope to purchase testing strips of up to Uganda shillings 2.8 million for distribution among juveniles and adolescents living with diabetes.
Dr. Odongkara says the HBA1C machine is essential in the routine management of blood sugars.
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According to SUTEDO, government should do more to raise awareness among service providers including schools. They say some schools decline to admit children with diabetes and few school nurses are trained to handle children with diabetes.