Health service providers in Gulu district are celebrating the arrival of blood sugar tracking devices, HBA1C machine and three additional glucometers at SUTEDO offices in Gulu town.
The vital medical kit has been lacking in many health facilities including Gulu Hospital where some 30 children and 400 adults are being treated for the silent killer diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.
World Health Organization (WHO) says diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation. It says the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.
Sister Sarah Kagoya Asaja, a nurse in charge of children with diabetes at Gulu Hospital says the only kit the hospital had for providing free services ran out of cartridge in 2015.
Sister Kagoya says the absence of the machine has pushed the cost of managing diabetes upward as samples had to be taken for tests and analysis at Masaka Hospital.
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The HBA1C machine, a glycohemoglobin analyser and its test strips was on Saturday handed over to the charity organisation, Support the Diabetes Organisation (SUTEDO) by Airtel Uganda. Sister Kagoya says the machine is essential for confirming the amount of sugar that has been in the blood for three months to inform management.
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Support the Diabetes Organisation (SUTEDO) was founded by a mother whose daughter was diagnosed with diabetes in 2015. The organisation is instrumental in raising awareness about diabetes in northern Uganda. In November, it organised a charity walk in Gulu town to fundraise money for purchasing the HBA1C machine in Gulu town. During the walk, many people were tested and found to be in pre-diabetes stage.
The organisation says conducting a single HBA1C test for comprehensive analysis in private clinics costs between Uganda shillings 35,000 and 80,000 while buying glucometers for daily tests costs on average 75,000 shillings. Meanwhile, a pack of 50 strips consumed by the glucometers cost 50,000 shillings.
Clients are advised to test at least four times daily to stay healthy. But for many clients from resource-limited households in the region, the amount is not affordable. Sister Sarah says non-communicable diseases including diabetes is neglected in the health care budget of Uganda. She says diabetes test strips for HBA1C machine are not being supplied by National Medical Stores on account of being too expensive.
According to Sister Kagoya, the strips cost on average Uganda shillings 90,000. Joanita Ayenyo, the founding President of SUTEDO says some of the glucometers will be donated to facilities to improve care in the region.
Mike Kyazze, the Airtel Uganda territory Business Manager, says the donation is in response to nominations of SUTEDO for its roles in creating awareness on diabetes among communities.
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Kyazze says the telecommunication company spent more than four million shillings from the Corporate Social Responsibility basket on procuring the machine.
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Dr Patrick Olwedo, the Amuru district Health Officer and chairperson board of SUTEDO says the medical kit will revolutionise management of diabetes in the Acholi sub region when finally placed at Gulu Hospital.
Dr Olwedo confirms that Uganda's health system does not take care of non-communicable diseases. He says it would be very bad to refer patients from Amuru to Gulu hospital to find the services lacking. He says the machine will be stationed at Gulu regional referral hospital to serve communities free of charge.