Health deputy minister John Mangwiro has been elected chairperson of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Africa Region, taking over from Naby Balde of Guinea.

Mangwiro is a consultant specialist physician and diabetes specialist and former president of the Zimbabwe Diabetic Association (ZDA).

He will largely be involved in giving direction and policy to the African Region chapter.

“The IDF is run by a board of chairpersons one from each region — Africa, Asia, Australia, America and Europe. We make up the board that then sits up on the running of IDF. Each region is represented by a chairman and I represent Africa,” Mangwiro said.

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Diabetes is still a health burden in Africa, with 19 million adults aged between 20 and 79 living with the condition in 2019.

This figure is expected to increase to 47 million by 2045.

Of concern also was that 45 million adults in the region have Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT), which places them at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

This figure is expected to reach 110 million by 2045.

The region has the highest percentage of undiagnosed people of all regions — 60% of adults living with diabetes that do not know they have it and one in nine live births are affected by hyperglycaemia in pregnancy.

In monetary terms, US$9,5 billion was spent on healthcare for people with diabetes in 2019.

But despite these overwhelming statistics, it was noted at a recent IDF African region meeting that associations were weak and needed strengthening, particularly sub-Sahara Africa, which lacks knowledge on diabetes.

“We discussed that our associations are weak, they need to be strengthened. We also highlighted that sub-Sahara Africa lacks the knowledge about diabetes, so we are going to work strongly on awareness,” the deputy minister said.

Mangwiro also highlighted that awareness was a problem in Africa as a whole and as part of his pledge, he said he would make use of other diabetic associations’ leaders in other countries to stress on awareness.

As a former ZDA president, Mangwiro opened a Diabetic Clinic at Sally Mugabe Hospital (formerly Harare Central Hospital), which has an ophthalmic unit.

Patients used to get an appointment after three months at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals to get their eyes checked. This long waiting period often resulted in blindness.

ZDA made sure that the Sally Mugabe Hospital had a working diabetic clinic with nurses in the ophthalmologist

“We have also managed to have one running diabetic clinic at Mpilo Central Hospital being run very well by physicians, general practitioners and nurses. All these hospitals have managed to get their nurses trained,” he said.