Malawi Nurse
Fighting Diabetes and Hypertension with community peer supporting groups and counseling centers

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Diabetes and hypertension have become the two highest increasing Non Communicable Diseases (NCD), which are posing great risks to people’s health in the world.

The two conditions, which in the past were thought to be diseases of the rich and affluent, have become even widespread in Malawian and even in the rural areas.

Simply put, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes is at crisis levels and most people die of diabetes and hypertension without healthy officials knowing the cause of death.


The WHO raises concern because of the rising healthcare costs in caring for diabetes, with the ensuring loss of labor productivity and decreased rates of economic growth.


It is therefore tempting to some extent, to attribute to diabetes and hypertension the underdevelopment that is characterizing the country’s population issues.


Globally, healthcare expenditure for diabetes totaled USD 465 billion in 201, which is equivalent to 11% of the total healthcare spending.


WHO warns that without investments in widely availing people with effective preventative diabetes complications, the expenditure on treatment is predicted to rise to USD 595 billion by 2030.


Unfortunately, in Malawi, the fiscal year plan is usually not clear as to how much of the budget pie is allocated to the NCD sector where diabetes, cancer, heart disease, hypertension among others, belong.


For instance, just for screening alone, diabetes requires US$75,806 representing 50% of the national budget while its management needs US$5,160,806.


The above figures in the 2017/2018 financial year are nowhere to be seen.


With such lack of commitment on provision of adequate resources for this alarming and emerging chronic diseases, the two conditions, will continue posing a threat to people’s health in Malawi.


Most patients are finding it difficult to source their medication, supplementary food, and counseling at the right time as their locations are far away from district and major or referral hospitals where such services are provided.


“Honestly, we are finding it hard to get the right medication due to long distances we take to reach Kamuzu Central Hospital, where diabetes is ably treated. This disease brings body weakness, joint pains; and walking long distances worsens our health,” lamented Catherine Maulana of Mtandire, in Lilongwe’s township. She was diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension in 2010.


This prompted Olive Kadzakumanja, a retired nurse/midwife to establish the NGO Community against Diabetes & Hypertension (CADH) in 2015. The organization serves local communities in raising awareness in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and hypertension.


The organization has since inception spread its operations into seven districts including Lilongwe (T.A.’s Kabudula, Chitukula, Tsabango, Njewa, and Malili), Salima (T.A. Maganga), Dedza (T.A. Kachere), Rumphi (T.A. Chikulamayembe), Mzimba Balaka (T.A. Msamala), and Blantyre (T.A. Kapeni).


Being a retired nurse but still passionate about chronic diseases, including diabetes and hypertension, the organization’s founder intends to serve communities and mostly serving the less privileged in order to assist them and remain relevant.


“We believe it is important to invest in communities by providing learning opportunities for volunteers, staff and communities so that they sustain a health project on their own. In this regard, we empower communities to fulfill projects on their own,” said Kadzakumanja.


The inception of CADH has resulted in the growth of community hypertension and diabetes peer support groups from 17 to 30 in Lilongwe in 2017 with about 800 patients.


Matapira diabetes and hypertension peer support group in the Traditional Authority (T.A.) Mazengera testifies to that growth with about 163 members from 65 in 2015 but facing challenges on access to drugs, screening and testing medical equipment.


Kadzakumanja also revealed that CADH’s establishment of peer support groups has made other people to inquire of diabetes and hypertension.


“There are many men suffering from diabetes and hypertension but the challenge comes when we want to seek health services for these two conditions due to lack of clinics. Once these clinics are available, many of our friends will come forthwith”, said Frackison Mkota of Matapira diabetes peer support group.


On insufficient drugs and medical equipment, Kadzakumanja appealed to organizations in the health sector to support CADH was it champion diabetes and hypertension awareness.


She said the CADH is running on its own as it is hard to source funds since many stakeholders do not realize the extent to which the two conditions are harming communities.


“We have passion for making a difference and impacting the lives of our communities in a manner that we respect and honor their culture and concerns. We have always believed that if people are empowered with knowledge and skill they will be able to prevent a number of diseases and live healthily while contributing to the household and country’s development,” assured Kadzakumanja.


Julian Lunguzi, the Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Health, commended CADH for the initiative said it had come at a good time.


Lunguzi, who is also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Dedza East, then challenged the authorities to support such efforts with the required resources.


She assured the public that her committee will lobby for more funding on NCDs which include diabetes, cancer and hypertension and that such funds should reach community initiatives such as that of CADH.


The establishment of CADH comes amid negative reports that most Malawians do not know about diabetes, the disease which is claiming many lives. There has also been the unmet need for curriculum integration in Malawi’s primary schools, so as to impart non communicable diseases knowledge at a tender age of the society.


CADH’s recent study revealed that 90 percent of men do not patronize peer groups on diabetes a trend that requires utmost attention. The organization is on the verge of revising and introducing its new peer support initiatives and opening more diabetes counseling centers as it did in Biwi, Lilongwe.

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