During an exhibition to mark World Diabetes Day themed “Know Your Risk, Know Your Response” in Abuja, the National Action Plan on Sugar Reduction Coalition (NASR) urged the government to boost taxes on sugar-laden beverages, assign diabetes desk officers to state health ministries, and eliminate tariffs on diabetes treatment supplies.

The coalition emphasized the need for free diabetes screenings at public health facilities and proposed that the tax revenue generated from increased tariffs be redirected to subsidize diabetes care across the country.

World Diabetes Day, observed annually on November 14, aims to heighten awareness about diabetes as a pressing global health concern.

Dr. Mohammed Alkali, President of the Diabetes Association of Nigeria, highlighted the critical importance of taking action to prevent the disease and ensure widespread access to quality healthcare, especially on this year’s World Diabetes Day.

A panel discussion led by Prof. Felicia Anumah, Director of the Centre for Diabetes Studies at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, emphasized the economic significance of prevention. Prof. Anumah pointed out that in Nigeria’s economic context, prevention emerges as the most cost-effective approach.

Moreover, she highlighted the grim consequences of limited access to medications, warning of a surge in diabetes-related complications, including increased risks of strokes, kidney failures, and the possibility of severe limb conditions necessitating more amputations.

The panelists consisted entirely of patients living with diabetes. One of them, Don Ejiro, said that accessing drugs has now become a terrible experience, with some diabetes medicines now costing four times as much as they used to at the beginning of the year. 

Also, the co-chairman of the coalition and president of the Nigerian Cancer Society, Dr Adamu Umar, noted that Nigeria has the highest burden of diabetes in Africa.

He said “Diabetes is underreported and some people are living with the disease without knowing they have it, so the number we have today may be more because some people don’t know they are living with the disease.

“An event like this is an eye opener for policymakers to do the needful and increase awareness on what we eat, drink, and do to reduce the burden of Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) burden, especially diabetes which has a lot to do with our lifestyles. We want proper implementation of the agreed tax to better the lives of diabetes patients,” he said.

The NASR coalition is a group of health organisations advocating for policy measures to curtail the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, linked to non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.