Monrovia, 14th November 2018: The World Diabetes Day was commemorated in Liberia on 14th November under the theme “The Family and Diabetes”. The official program was hosted at the premises of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and was attended by staff of the MoH, Civil Society Organizations, Community Based Organizations, and other development partners. Of particular importance was the attendance of some diabetics from communities in and around Monrovia.
Serving as keynote speaker, Dr. Mesfin G. Zbelo, Acting WHO Representative said the cumulative data from the Health Management Information System (HMIS) of the Ministry of Health between January to July 2018 indicates increasing trends in Diabetes cases, particularly in 6 of the 15 counties. He said many cases of diabetes can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Mesfin underscored the importance of family support in the fight against Diabetes and called on family members to know the risk factors, the warning signs, and what they can do to prevent diabetes and its complications. He then called on the Ministry of Health to ensure that all healthcare workers have the requisite knowledge and skills to help individuals and families to properly prevent and manage Diabetes. Ending his remarks, Dr. Mesfin said WHO will continue to provide technical support to the Government of Liberia to develop policies, strategies, and plans for the prevention and control of Diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
Speaking also at the program, Dr. Fred Amegashie, Director, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Unit, MoH, said a survey on Liberia Non-Communicable Diseases and Injuries (NCDIs) Poverty conducted to explore and quantify the burden of NCDIs report shows that there are four major risk factors associated with diabetes in Liberia; and these include: lack of access to for NCDI services, unhealthy diet, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption. Dr. Amegashie said the fight against diabetes and other NCDs require multisectoral action. He then called on the Government and all relevant stakeholders to expand their NCDs focus and invest more in NCDs programs.
Also making remarks was Mr. Daniel Smith, a 65year old known diabetic for over 8 years. Mr. Smith highlighted that diabetes is one of the most pressing health challenges in life. He admonished those living with diabetes to take care of themselves through proper management of diabetes which includes: monitoring blood sugar levels, healthy diets, regular physical activities, maintaining a normal body weight and taking their medications as recommended by the healthcare workers. Speaking further on the burden diabetes has on a family, Mr. Smith recounted the number of times his family had to abandon their personal obligations to accompany him to the clinics or hospitals, and the use of their finances intended for different purposes on his health. He described Diabetes as deadly but said the good news is that diabetes is manageable and can be prevented. He then made a passionate appeal to the Government of Liberia to increase its support for Diabetes management and prevention programs throughout the country.
Other speakers at the program included representatives from; the Diabetes and Endocrine Society of Liberia, the Lions Club, Partners in Health, Harvard Medical School, Sight Savers, the United Methodist Church, and the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital; all underscored the impact of diabetes on individuals and families, and their institutions' involvement in the prevention and control of the disease.
Key activities that formed a part of the program included; the reading of the Proclamation of the President of the Republic of Liberia, the reading of the WHO Regional Director for Africa World Diabetes Day Message and the launch of the Liberia Non-Communicable Diseases and Injuries Poverty Report by Mrs. Joyce Sherman, Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services, MoH. Other activities also organized and executed throughout the week in commemoration of the day included; free blood sugar screening, media campaigns and the display of posters in strategic areas in the city and at the Monrovia City Hall.