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UN, Lions Club, stakeholders preach diabetes free society


UN Rep. Ronald Kayanja (left), Lion Ayobola Samuel, Umar Gambari and Lion Gbolagade Adebisi

To get rid of diabetes, the fourth killer disease in the world, all hands must be on deck. This was emphasised at the Lions Club International Day with the United Nations held recently in Lagos. The Guardian was there.

Diabetes is one of the top four non-communicable diseases killing people in the world today. The others are cancer, heart diseases and chronic lung disease.

According to the International Diabetes Federations, the Sub-Saharan Africa has high prevalence of diabetes and two-third of the people with diabetes in Africa are undiagnosed.

In 2015, it was estimated that over 422 million people in the world over had diabetes. In its 2016 reports, the World Health Organisation noted that about 4.3 million Nigerians are suffering from the disease.

It is against this background, and to align with the mission statement of Lions Clubs International to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage and promote peace and international understanding, the association chose a theme for this year’s Lions Day with the UN.


Held on Friday, March 16, 2018, at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos, the event, which was organised by Lions Clubs International Multiple District 404, Nigeria attracted high networth guests from government, business and the non-profit sectors.

Other dignitaries present include, Multiple Council Chairperson MD 404, Lion Gbolagade Adebisi; District Governor 40 B2, Lion Ayobola Samuel; United Nations Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Ronald Kayanja; Dr. Teslim Sanusi, Lion Abiodun Adediji, diplomats, expatriates from different embassies, all top members of the association, captains of industry, public officers, teachers and students in of secondary schools in Lagos, including Pacelli School for the Blind and partially impaired.

Themed, ‘Working together globally to combat diabetes’, the event was an opportunity to explore solutions to pressing global needs.

To celebrate this year’s event in Nigeria, former Nigerian Representatives at the United Nations – Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari – was the chairman of the day, a diabetes expert, Dr. Mrs. Lathar Ravikuma, was the guest speaker and co-founder of the EKO Hospital Group, Dr. Olorogun Sonny Kuku, was the keynoter.

Mr. Ronald Kayanja, the UNDP Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon, said it was a great honour to represent the United Nations at this year’s event.

He said the organisation deeply values the collaboration with Lions Club International, which dates back to the adoption of the United Nations Charter more than 70 years ago in San Francisco, when the club helped to formulate the non-governmental section of the UN founding document.

Commending the association’s collaborative effort with the international body, Kallon said he is encouraged to see that it is helping children to grow, learn and enjoy a better and quality life through a variety initiatives, including sight first, which has helped restored vision more than 30 million people worldwide.

“I greatly appreciate what you are doing as the UN counts on the Lions members to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals build on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals to promote equitable and inclusive progress for all humankind on a healthy planet.”

In his speech, which was read by his son, Umar Bolaji, Prof. Gambari commended the club for choosing this year’s theme, which he said, is timely and appropriate.

He said it is also appropriate that the UN, a global body reputed to bring relief, peace and development to troubled world, jointly hosts the celebration.

While analysing this year’s theme, and why all hands must be on deck to eradicate this epidemic, Gambari said a comprehensive national plan of action based on public-private partnership is essential and the focus should be prevention, treatment and research.

With this, he stressed that all stakeholders, especially in the health sector, would be involved in the design and implementation.

While noting that those who smoke are at the risk of suffering from diabetes, because of its effect on cardiovascular health, Gambari recommended measures that could prevent cases of diabetes.

According to him, there should be a high level of awareness and advocacy, “and this is where the club and other stakeholders can play a key role.”

Speaking from a medical point of view, Kuku, in his keynote, said the disease has overtaken all killer infectious diseases in the country, and “this is why all must fight it.”

Throwing more light on how the disease has eaten deep into the Nigerian fabric, he said there was a paper that came out in Nigeria, in 1952, which said there was no diabetes in Nigeria. “This was because it was so small. Today, it has affected eight per cent of Nigerians, which means one out of 10 will have the disease in the country,” he said.

According to him, “the last nationwide survey on the burden of diabetes was carried out in 1997. In 2015, an estimated 14 million people were suffering from the disease and the figure is likely to increase to 34 million by 2040, we need to fight it.”

More worrisome is that the number of people who are working around with the disease and those who are diagnosed is alarming. Such people, he pointed out, could die of complication.

“Diabetes is the second commonest of blindness and amputation. It also leads to hypertension and heart failure,” he said.

The renowned physician, who is also the life patron of Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance of Nigeria, noted that if properly controlled, diabetes may not occur or be postponed.

For him, the cost of treating the disease is high, as one out of six diabetes admission leads to death compared to malaria, which is one in 1,000.

On how the spread of this epidemic could be prevented, Kuku stressed the need for awareness and advocacy.

He revealed that people suffering from diabetes should get Insulin for free, regular exercise and change of lifestyle. “Diabetes is not caused by sugar, as many believe, but it is as a result of insufficient insulin in the body.”

Though, the major cause, according to Kuku, is obesity, hypertension, strong family history, sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, alcoholism and smoking, among others, he said health awareness campaign will reduce its growth.

Still explaining the disease’s nature, he said regular exercise, checkup of blood sugar, blood pressure, women doing cancer screening, physical exercise such as 30 minutes’ walk in five days per week, healthy living, and above all, early detection will postpone or cancel mortality.


Kuku concluded by calling on stakeholders to rise up to the occasion, by collaborating to fight the disease.

Corroborating Kuku, a private diabetes practitioner, Ravikuma, said diabetes is caused majorly by lifestyle: The way you live, eating habit etc. According to her, the epidemic does not have age limit as it affects all ages.

Although over 371 million people are living with diabetes worldwide, she said the disease is prevalent in Africa, Asia and developing countries.

How can you improve your health and ward off diabetes?

Ravikuma suggested that people should avoid skipping breakfast, “when you wake up, breathe deeply, instead of sugary breakfast, eat food with highly fiber concentration, water instead of soft drink, vegetables instead of highly concentrated carbohydrate food, drink water with squeeze freshly lime juice while herbs and spices can improve insulin. While access to affordable health care can help prevent all form of diseases, she enjoined all to take control of their lives.”

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