Diabetes is now the commonest disease in the World. It absorbs 2.4% of global GDP and rising. It overlaps with heart disease, hypertension, stroke and hyperlipidaemia, as one of the obesity-driven family of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that have now become the biggest killer in the world for over 15 years.
We all know someone with diabetes as Ireland, and the rest of the developed world, is in the vanguard of the obesity pandemic. But just look at what is happening in the WHOLE of the developing world – obesity growth rates faster than ours. In sub-Saharan Africa, life ends in your 50’s on average. Is this due to HIV, malaria, hepatitis, meningitis, TB etc. etc.? No!! 70% of deaths in people under 70 years are due to NCDs. Apart from its sinister NCD bedfellows, it is also the commonest cause of blindness, amputation and kidney failure, dialysis and transplantation.
Behind these statistics there are, as always, human tragedies. Here we get all our diabetes treatments free to help prevent complications. Even established complications like coronary heart disease can be by-passed and stented. There, they simply suffer the consequences and die prematurely. Life is no cheaper there than here – their sense of family, village and community is very strong, as it was in Ireland 70 years ago.
I have chosen to address this problem in Togo, West Africa, a country with a population similar to Ireland, a neglected area of lovely people who live in grinding poverty. I have visited 10 times, in my own time and entirely at my own expense. There, I have been granted a deserted and overgrown 1906 German colonial building in the grounds of a Hospital, to house a public NCD/ Diabetes Centre, the first in West Africa. Complete refurbishment will cost €44,000. I have raised this sum, mainly from my patients, colleagues and friends and work has begun.
The resident nurse-manager will be a senior Togolese nurse that I funded for 3 months training in Diabetes in the Mater Hospital and UCD.
The next step is to transport obsolete, but functional, equipment from Irish Hospitals to equip the Centre. I have also had commitments for voluntary visits from health care professionals in specialties relevant to diabetes. More money will be needed and I am deeply grateful to Framework Financial for their support for this project, as well as on a personal level for their outstanding and professional financial care of me and my family.