YAOUNDE, Cameroon

More than 18% of coronavirus deaths in Africa are among patients with diabetes, the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa office said Thursday.

Diabetes is a condition that global studies have found increases the risk of severe illness and death among patients infected with the coronavirus.

The UN health agency said an analysis of 14 African nations that provided information on COVID-19 and comorbidities, showed people older than 60 years of age face greater risks of complications or death from COVID-19.

“Far too many people are in the dark as to whether they have diabetes. People with this chronic condition suffer a double blow if they are also infected with COVID-19,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “We must turn this around by investing in early detection, prevention and treatment of diabetes.”

The WHO said: ‘’the African region is also witnessing a rise in diabetes risk factors such as obesity. Increasingly sedentary lifestyle and consuming foods rich in sugar, fats and salt is heightening obesity, ranging from 2.5% of adults in Burundi to 26.9 % in Seychelles.’’

“We must not lose sight of other health challenges as we combat COVID-19. World Diabetes Day is a key moment to call attention to this chronic illness, which is increasingly threatening the lives of Africans,” Moeti said.

The findings were released days before World Diabetes Day, marked annually on Nov. 14.

Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation. With early diagnosis and treatment, many of the harmful effects can be delayed or even avoided, said the WHO.

There are more than 1.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa with more than 1.6 million recoveries and 45,000 deaths, according to WHO.

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