•Visitors during the photo exhibition
As part of activities to commemorate World Diabetes Day, the National Action on Sugar Reduction Coalition (NASR) organized a photo exhibition to showcase people living with diabetes in Nigeria.
Omei Bongos-Ikwue, the Coalition spokesperson, in a statement, stated that through patient stories and testimonials, the exhibition, which took place at Thought Pyramid Art Gallery Abuja, informed and educated stakeholders on Nigeria’s diabetes burden and the need for action to reduce the difficulties of living with diabetes in the country.
“A chronic disease that negatively impacts every organ in the body, diabetes affects over 11 million Nigerians. One of the significant contributors to the diabetes epidemic in Nigeria is the consumption of sugary drinks.
“The photography exhibition featured patients in different stages of diabetes, some with major complications like limb amputation and blindness. In a “compelling visual narrative,” photographers Maryam Turaki, Tim Yisa and Maruuf Saidu featured six patients living with diabetes in an effort to increase public concern for the millions of Nigerians suffering with diabetes.
“During the event, Secretary of the Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Comrade Bernard Enyia, called on the government to increase taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, staff state health ministries with diabetes desk officers and remove tariffs on diabetes treatment goods. This set of patient demands also emphasized that diabetes screening be free in public facilities and tax revenue be channeled towards subsidizing diabetes care.
“The event included a panel session moderated by Professor Felicia Anumah, Director of the Centre for Diabetes Studies at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital.
“The panelists consisted entirely of patients living with diabetes. Professor Anumah stressed that, given the Nigerian economy, “prevention is the cheapest option.” According to Don Ejiro, one of the panelists, accessing drugs has now become “a terrible experience,” with some diabetes medicines now costing four times as much as they used to at the beginning of the year.
“In a chilling prediction, Professor Anumah stated that as a result of increased inaccessibility to medicines, “more diabetes complications are impending – more strokes, more kidney failures and more gangrenous limbs,” leading to more amputations,” reads parts of the statement.
The statement further quoted Dr Mohammed Alkali, President of the Diabetes Association of Nigeria to have emphasized that the issue of diabetes is one in which everyone should be involved. This year’s World Diabetes Day theme, “Know Your Risk, Know Your Response,” underscores the crucial need for action towards preventing the disease and ensuring quality healthcare access.
The coalition reiterated WHO’s recommendation and pro-health policy best practices: sugar-sweetened beverage taxes are a good opportunity to alleviate the diabetes burden by reducing consumption and raising revenue that can be earmarked for diabetes care. Nigeria’s SSB tax is currently 10 naira per liter which is abysmally low and falls below the regional average. The WHO recommends that SSB taxes raise prices by at least 20%of the final retail price to have the most meaningful health impact.
The Coalition noted that the Diabetes Association of Nigeria during the event made a list of demand to include: “Tax sugary beverages at a rate that increases sugary drink prices by at least 20% of the retail price.
“The cost of insulin has more than doubled. We demand that taxes on insulin be removed and revenue from sugary drink taxes be used to subsidize insulin for diabetes patients.
“There should be more health promotion and awareness on the dangers of SSB consumption. Marketing of sugary drinks should be restricted in order to create an environment that encourages healthy choices.
“Improve access to primary health care by placing diabetes desk officers at state health ministries.
“Institute free diabetes screening and testing services at public health facilities”.