Diabetes common in southern Rwanda – study shows

With a national diabetes rate at 6 percent, people from hunger-hit areas of south-western Rwanda are more likely to contract the disease due to malnutrition and general poor health, the findings by local experts show.  

The findings were presented at a workshop for medical practitioners last week in the Southern Province-based Kabgayi hospital.

“People from the former Gikongoro (Southern Province) are susceptible to diabetes than those living in former Kibungo (Eastern Province), simply because Kibungo has essential diet elements like vegetables, which is rare in Gikongoro”, said Dr Charlotte Bavuma, a National University of Rwanda don.  

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in conjunction with government found out in studies several years ago that the Gikongoro area has a sour-soil texture – that does not support crop growth. Gikongoro was also until recently facing terrible hunger as people had very little land for tilling.  

The findings suggest that Type I diabetes is what is ravaging southern Rwanda as it is caused by feeding insufficiencies.  

Diabetes is classified into 3 types including: Type I – common in children; Type 2 for adults; and Gestational diabetes – common in some pregnant mothers – but can be cured. Estimates put the number of diabetics at 540,000 in the country.

However, according to Professor Dr Trevor Orchard of Pittsburgh University (USA), diabetes can at times be hereditary.

People in rural areas have also mistaken diabetes for poisoning or witch craft pushing them to seek traditional healers, said Dr. Nzeyimana Bonaventure, a Ministry of Health official for Non contagious diseases.

Physical exercises are said to be vital in order to reduce excessive sugars and fats which catalyse the diabetic condition of patients.

Patients are advised to be equipped with a glucometer (a device for measuring the amount of sugar in the blood).

Diabetes can lead to amputation, blindness, kidney failure, liver malfunction and impotence.

The association for diabetes patients in Rwanda is collaborating with the University of Pittsburg to put up control and support programs. A diabetes center is to be established at the Kigali Institute of Health.