The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday called for an integrated approach to boost the management of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension and diabetes in Africa.
Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for WHO in Africa, said that underinvestments had undermined diagnosis and case management of lifestyle diseases in the continent.
“We need to borrow from the management of COVID-19 where integrated and multi-stakeholders approach has led to organized campaigns against the pandemic,” Moeti said during a virtual event to commemorate global week for action on NCDs.
Moeti noted that the medication cash payment model that is common in the continent is a stumbling block to access NCD treatment since the majority of populations are poor and unable to pay medical bills from their pockets.
She observed that from WHO’s survey, Africans die younger from NCDs than other people from other continents.
The official said that it is unfortunate that COVID-19 disrupted the management of NCDs as medicine failed to reach those suffering from the disease, hence leading to many deaths of people suffering from NCDs.
Citing a recent WHO survey, Moeti said 41 countries reported disruptions of NCDs management.
She added that the study finds out that NCDs accounted for 50 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in most countries.
In South Africa, she said, nearly half of all cases and deaths on the continent, 61 percent of the COVID-19 patients in hospitals had hypertension and 52 percent had diabetes and 45 percent of people aged 60-69 who died from COVID-19 also had hypertension.
Moeti added that in Kenya, around half of COVID-19 deaths occurred in people with NCDs.
She noted that WHO preliminary analysis of 14 countries in the African region, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma are the co-morbidities most associated with COVID-19 patients.
“These chronic conditions require continuous treatment, but as governments address the ongoing pandemic, health services for NCDs have been severely disrupted,” she said.
Moeti however said that it is unfortunate that the continent faces a double burden of infectious diseases and NCDs.
She called on governments and development partners to focus on NCDs, adding that management attention and prioritization are currently lagging behind.
Moeti urged countries in sub-Saharan Africa to embrace Universal Health Care as a breakthrough in managing and eradicating diseases.