DAN Marks World Diabetes Day In UniPort With Medical Outreach

As part of activities that marked the 2016 edition of World Diabetes Day, which  had Eyes on Diabetes as its theme,  staff, students, other stakeholders from within and outside the University community have benefitted from screening for diabetes mellitus and other complications associated with the deadly disease.

The exercise, which was organised by the Rivers State Chapter of the Diabetes Association of Nigerian (DAN) in concert with the Senator Lee Maeba Foundation, took place at the Ebitimi Banigo Auditorium. Other highlights included testimonies by people living with diabetes types I and II, walk-the-talk activity, a courtesy call on the Vice-Chancellor and presentations that emphasised the importance of regular monitoring of blood sugar, including physical activity, early detection and management.

Speaking during the courtesy visit, Chairman of the Rivers State Chapter of DAN, Emeritus Professor Ebiegberi Alagoa, noted that the University of Port Harcourt and the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) have been playing crucial roles in the existence and activities of DAN in Port Harcourt.  Professor Alagoa recalled how he developed symptoms of diabetes way back in 1978, adding that the disease was like a death sentence with very few medical facilities and experts available in Rivers State to tackle it.

“There was no one to take care of me in Port Harcourt then. I had to go to Ibadan.  When we started the Diabetes Association of Nigeria here, they chose me as Chairman. Professor Sunny Chinenye, the current Chief Medical Director of UPTH, Professor Aaron Ojule and the Vice-Chairman of the Association, Dr. Hamilton Opurum, have been very supportive. Professor Chinenye later became National President of the Association. Senator Lee Maeba Foundation came to our rescue in the area of sponsorship,” he recalled, disclosing that this year’s celebration was brought to the University to create more awareness about the ailment among staff and students.  

In his welcome address, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ndowa Lale, who spoke through the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), Professor Anthony Ibe, commended DAN and Senator Lee Maeba Foundation for their advocacy programmes and efforts targeted at tackling the disease. “Without a body such as the Diabetes Association of Nigeria, most people will be living with diabetes mellitus without knowing or doing anything to contain it. 

“A lot of people are unaware that they are diabetic. I am happy to have married a pharmacist, who insists that I check my blood sugar on a regular basis. Mine has not gotten to the level of requiring insulin yet, but it requires concerted effort to keep it at a tolerable level, and I believe that this gathering will create better awareness about the disease that respects no age, status or belief system” he said at the occasion.

In her opening remarks, Chairman of the occasion and Executive Vice-President of Senator Lee Maeba Foundation, Folashade Aliyu, recounted the activities of the Foundation, including its partnership with the World Health Organisation. “People don’t come out willingly to declare their status because of fear of stigmatisation. Look at HIV, people come out willingly and that is why there is always a place for patients to go for treatment and counseling.  There is no family in Rivers State that does not have people suffering from diabetes today,” Aliyu told the gathering, calling on stakeholders to join hands with Senator Lee Maeba Foundation and the University of Port Harcourt in fighting diabetes.    

In his presentation entitled: Promoting Research in Rivers State, Dr. Opurum, stressed the importance of carrying out research in the University with a view to finding out the correct statistics of people living with diabetes and also find a lasting cure for the disease. His words: “Everything that is known about caring for diabetes is an outcome of research. Research is expensive and the unfortunate aspect is that people living with diabetes in Nigeria care for themselves. The government has no clear support system for them, so it is very difficult to estimate the cost of caring for diabetics in Rivers State. If we want to win the war against diabetes, such attitude and approach would have to change.”

Other presentations at the occasion included: Managing Type I DM in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects, delivered by Dr. Tamunopreye Jaja, Managing Type II DM in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects, delivered by Dr. Gesiye Bozimo, Managing Gestational DM in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects by Dr. Rosemary Ogu, Diabetes and the Eye, delivered by Dr. Bassey Febai, Role of DAN in the Effective Management of DM by Dr. Ibitruko Kurubo, who is the National Vice-President of DAN. 

In her testimony, Diabetes Youth Ambassador of Nigeria, 23-year-old Oprah Kosuowei, disclosed that she was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 10, explaining that she had been in and out of crisis. She drew attention to the existence of a Diabetes Youth Camp, which brings together, children living with the disease.

On his part, Secretary of DAN, Bernard Enyia, stressed the importance of networking among diabetics to share experience and help one another manage the disease, which he said no longer constituted a death sentence as was previously thought.      

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