The Gambia joined the International Community in observing World Diabetes Day, commemorated on 14 November every year. The activity was organized by the Gambia Diabetes Association (GDA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoH&SW) and the WHO Country Office (WHO), hosted by the Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) Headquarters in Kanifing. The day started with a march pass involving members of GDA, volunteers and civil society groups.
Dr. Sharmila Lareef-Jah (DPC) who spoke on behalf of the WHO Representative, Dr. Desta Tiruneh, read the statement of the WHO Regional Director, which acknowledged the growing problem of diabetes in the African Region largely attributable to a dramatic rise in obesity among children and adolescent aged between 5-19 years old from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016.
She highlighted the growing prevalence of obesity and overweight due to a combination of poor diets resulting from aggressive marketing of foods rich in fats, sugar, and salt; relatively unaffordable healthy nutritious foods for poor families and communities, and inadequate physical activity among children, adolescents and adults.
The statement also called upon all governments in the region to “put the prevention and management of NCDs including diabetes high on the national development agenda and to ensure that women and girls have access to services for screening for diabetes, adequate care including medication, counselling and information on diabetes.
Dr. Sharmila re-assured partners that WHO will continue to work closely with them to strengthen the good work it has already started in fighting diabetes in the Gambia.
The Permanent Secretary, Dr. Cherno Omar Barry deputizing for the Minister of Health and Social Welfare (MoH&SW), Hon. Saffie Lowe-Ceesay noted that the theme “Women and diabetes - our right to a healthy future”, was very fitting as this year’s World Diabetes Day campaign will link the urgent need for action to protect the health of our women for future generations. He highlighted three key messages for the campaign:-
- All women with diabetes require affordable and equitable access to care and education to better manage their diabetes and improve their health outcomes.
- Pregnant women require improved access to screening, care and education to achieve positive health outcomes for mother and child
- Women and girls are key agents in the adoption of healthy lifestyles to improve the health and well-being of future generations
Dr. Barry placed emphasis on rigorous sensitization and challenged the youths, healthcare community, Peer Health Educators, Parents, Guardians, teachers and the media to join forces to help those living with diabetes, prevent the condition in those at risk, and avoid unnecessary death and disability
He finally thanked partners including WHO for their support in their quest to fight this dreadful disease.
Other speakers included, Mr. Sanjally Trawally, Deputy Directory of Health Education and Promotion who gave the opening remarks and Dr. Alieu Gaye, President of the GDA who described diabetes as a disease of lifestyle affecting over 300 million people the world over, advised that “in order to live a healthy life, we must invest in eating and promoting our local foods, maintaining healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco. This he said will help prevent and reduce complications due to diabetes and other non-communicable diseases”.
At the end of the event participants had the opportunity to test their blood sugar as well as blood pressure.