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Elderly soldier on despite ravages of diabetes

08 April 2016, 11:57

Nairobi - Reuben Magoko's towering image and commanding voice mask the suffering he has endured in the last two decades after he was diagnosed with diabetes.

The 67-year-old father of three was devastated when the medics revealed he had diabetes and thanks to a supportive network of family and friends, the career mason has managed to live with this condition while at peace with his conscience.

Speaking to Xinhua in Nairobi on Thursday during the World Health Day whose theme was "Beat Diabetes", Magoko said the debilitating ailment has taken a heavy toll on his health and family finances.

"Being diagnosed with diabetes when I was grappling with other mid-life crisis was a devastating affair, but my family and friends have lend material and emotional support to see me through the predicament," Magoko said.

He is the National Chairman of Kenya Defeat Diabetes Association, a lobby group that advocates for policy reforms to strengthen response to a lifestyle disease that has caused strain to Kenya's health care infrastructure.

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Magoko is among an estimated 2 million Kenyans living with diabetes, but have to contend with a drain on family resources while treating and managing the disease.

He told Xinhua that his diabetic elderly peers are grappling with high poverty levels alongside social exclusion.

"Senior citizens who are diabetic lack money to cater for insulin and other first line drugs while neglect by immediate relatives has only worsened their plight," said Magoko. adding that his organization has formed support groups for elderly diabetic patients

Kenyan senior citizens who are diabetic have been on the frontline advocating for targeted social and medical interventions to address their plight.

Magoko said a state medical insurance and social welfare should cover all senior citizens who bear the brunt of lifestyle diseases like diabetes.

"As diabetic patients who are quite advanced in age, we require government support to enable us access quality medication and diet that are critical in the management of this condition," Magoko remarked.

As Kenya marked the World Health Day that devoted attention to diabetes, policymakers, health specialists and advocates agreed the disease has disproportionately affected the ageing and poor demographic.

Dr. Joseph Kibachio, the head of non communicable diseases (NCD) unit in the ministry of health, decried the rising toll of diabetes among elderly persons.

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"Diabetes has affected people across all age sets, but has taken a heavier toll on older citizens due to a number of physical and psychosocial factors. We must spotlight the plight of senior citizens living with diabetes to inform policy adjustments," Kibachio said.

He revealed the ministry of health has partnered with civil society to implement diabetes treatment and management programs tailor-made for older people.

Dr. Prafulla Mishra, the Regional Director, Help Age International, said a swift response to the burden of lifestyle diseases among key demographics like the youth and elderly people is key to hasten Kenya's socio-economic progress.

Blasyo Nabutete, a 64-year-old man who has lived with diabetes for close to two decades, said greater awareness and healthy lifestyle ha enabled him live with the condition.

"Save for occasional visits to health centers to treat infections associated with diabetes, I have been able to manage this disease through regular exercises, high fiber diet and timely medication," Nabutete told Xinhua.

He is a farmer in Vihiga County, western Kenya where he is involved in diabetes awareness campaigns targeting all age groups.

Francis Njoroge, a 72-years-old father of seven who has lived with diabetes for the last four decades, noted that access to affordable and quality health services are key to management of the disease.

"Thanks to education, I am now aware of which steps to take in order to manage diabetes effectively. We should concentrate diabetes awareness campaigns in the urban slums and villages where people may have the disease but have never been screened," said Njoroge.

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- Xinhua

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