Today is 14 November, World Diabetes Day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. These diseases are particularly disproportionate amongst lower income countries and populations, where more than three-quarters of global NCD deaths – 32 million – occur, and health systems are unable to respond adequately.
Since the pandemic people who live with NCDs are at even greater risk. Not only are they more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19, but they are also unable to access the treatments and medicines they need to manage their diseases. As reported by the WHO in June, NCD prevention and treatment services had been severely disrupted since the outbreak. A common reason, cited in surveys from 155 countries during a 3-week period in May, was lack of staff because health workers had been reassigned to support COVID-19 services. If this disruption continues, a long-term upsurge in deaths from NCDs is likely.
“It is very important not only that care for people living with NCDs is included in national response and preparedness plans for COVID-19 – but that innovative ways are found to implement those plans. We must be ready to “build back better” – strengthening health services so that they are better equipped to prevent, diagnose and provide care for NCDs in the future, in any circumstances,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases at WHO.
In East Africa, while the healthcare challenges are well known, over the next 20 years NCDs like cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes are expected to become the leading causes of death. Watch this short video (filmed prior to COVID-19) to see how AKDN is supporting the region’s health care and responding to its changing burden of non-communicable diseases.