Kenya – Lifestyle diseases catch up on Kenya’s urban poor
Harry Ndara, a father of three and diabetic for the last 10 years, stares forlornly at the prospects of yet another bleak dawn, occasioned by lingering doubts on whether a ray of hope looms anywhere in the horizon.
Ndara has also lived with High Blood Pressure for the last two years.
Africa Science News Service crew caught up with him at a Diabetic Clinic sponsored by Africa Population and Health Research Canter (APHRC) and Provide International.
The Clinic is offering free treatment on diabetes and high blood pressure to a people who cannot afford and would otherwise succumb to the ailments
Ndara and his sick neighbours can afford a smile, at least for now as nongovernmental agencies attend to their plight by providing free treatment to terminal ailments, which have aggravated the level of their deprivation.
The middle-aged casual labourer is a resident of Korogocho slums, a sprawling habitat to an estimated quarter of a million people, which is located in the eastern fringes of Nairobi City.
Korogocho slums have epitomized abject poverty and other forms of deprivation rampant in Nairobi’s informal settlements.
Here, access to basic amenities is a nightmare. Basic infrastructure such as roads, electricity, water and sewerage has either broken down or is nonexistent.
Korogocho residents have been forced to live with communicable diseases such as Chorela, Typhoid and Dysentery due to poor sanitation. Access to clean piped water remains a pipedream to majority of residents.
The grim statistics on heavy toll of communicable diseases in Korogocho and other poorer suburbs in Nairobi have however prompted some action at higher levels.
This is evidenced by far reaching intervention programmes the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation in conjunction with other partners, have initiated to curb spread of these epidemics among the vulnerable populations in the slums and rural areas.
Not so to lifestyle diseases, whose dramatic surge is opening new frontiers to demographic groups rarely associated with them.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 240 million people globally are diabetic and are expected to hit 400 million by 2025.
Kenya records a 12% rate of prevalence in diabetes.
Catherine Kyobutungi, an Associate Research Scientist at Africa Population and Health Research Canter (APHRC), gave a grim portrait on high incidences of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers, which are being recorded among poorer segment of the population.
She told Africa Science News Service that poor dietary habits, alcoholism, stress and environmental pollution are contributing to high rate of diabetes, heart diseases and cancers among the poor in Nairobi’s informal settlement.
“The magnitude of the problem is huge despite little awareness. Policymakers have paid scant attention on rising cases of lifestyle diseases among the poor on the premise that they are confined to affluent members of the society”, she says.
Kenya is yet to compile a data on extent of lifestyle diseases and this has placed hurdles in development of a comprehensive policy on them, says Kyobutungi
The Africa Population and Health Research Canter in conjunction with Provide International are implementing a cardiovascular disease programme targeting Korogocho and Viwandani slums.
The project seeks to evaluate the extent of cardiovascular as well as diabetes incidents in these informal settlements and has targeted five thousand people, says Kyobutungi
A random survey identified seven hundred cases.
“Random sampling in Korogocho and Viwandani indicates that one in seven people aged eighteen years and above are either diabetic or hypertensive”, says Kyobutungi.
Management and treatment on these lifestyle diseases is a costly affair more so to slum residents who subsist on a dollar per day.
Kyobutungi says that the cost of insulin is high. Thirty vials of insulin that are used in every clinic sell at Kshs 500 and Kshs 1500 in public and private hospitals respectively.
Most patients visiting Korogocho and Viwandani Clinics have type one and two diabetes.
APHRC and other partners are offering free drugs alongside accurate information to boost patients capacity in self management of the disease, says Kyobutungi.