“This month, a tsunami hit the coastline of Malaysia, causing death and
destruction. We were all horrified to see what was happening. Nevertheless,
it wasn’t long before relief organisations began to provide support for
those in need. But, there is another tsunami hitting many countries in the
world, every day as thousands of people are diagnosed with diabetes.
Diabetes kills more people worldwide than AIDS or cancer combined but not
enough is being done to help these people.”
This is according to Louise Molyneaux, herself a victim of diabetes and
renal failure and a member of Diabetes South Africa.
Molyneaux’s own story explains why she devotes so much of her time to the
organisation and the many South Africans who are impacted by diabetes.
“26 years ago, I knew only one diabetic. But, as we had worked together from
10 years, I knew a lot about the condition. As I opened my eyes one Tuesday
morning, I remember realising that I, too, was suffering from diabetes. My
husband laughed, my doctor’s sister laughed and my doctor even laughed. But
no-one laughed when the blood results showed a glucose level of 22!” she
She goes on to explain that, when one has diabetes, one’s body is either
unable to make enough insulin or it is unable to correctly use the insulin
it does make. As a result, the glucose in your bloodstream cannot move into
your cells to be used as energy and builds up in the blood stream.
Damage caused by elevated blood glucose levels is irreversible and diabetes
has been linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, eye disease, kidney
disease, nerve damage, lower limb amputations, sexual dysfunction as well as
high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
But, what upsets Molyneaux the most, is that diabetes remains in the shadow
of AIDS and cancer and, despite being the second largest cause of death in
South Africa, and being recently declare the largest non-communicable
disease in South Africa, those suffering from this condition are offered
little education and contend with inadequate treatment facilities.
Nationally, there are between three and 3.5 million diagnosed diabetics in
South Africa and approximately 1.5 million undiagnosed diabetics. There are
between 1.5 and 2 million pre-diabetics in this country. These are the
figures that were available in 2016 – two years ago and by now are much
Molyneaux points out that, because of lack of funding and staff, there is
little or no diabetes education available in the state system.
The real tragedy is that those who are suffering the most are from
disadvantaged communities. “It is not uncommon for them not to get the
insulin or medication that they need to treat their condition. It is
frightening because the treatment of diabetes is relatively inexpensive but
the treatment of the complications is huge – physically, emotionally and
She continues: “At last count, in KwaZulu-Natal, there were 1.3 million
patients being treated in the public health system. To make matters worse,
there is only one physician per 100 000 residents. Yet, in the Indian
community, 30 percent of people have diabetes,” she points out.
Only two podiatrists to serve all these state patients, making it a small
wonder that there are six amputations per day in KZN.
Diabetes South Africa attempts to reach out to diabetics but, with no
funding from government, this is a huge challenge.
A few years ago, Diabetes SA offices offered support in Cape Town,
Johannesburg and Durban. Volunteers manned information centres in three
other cities. Now, only two offices remain open – one in Durban run by Jenny
Russell and a small office in Cape Town. There is no office in Gauteng!
Molyneaux believes that, despite receiving approximately 30 requests for
information on diabetes each day, the Durban branch is doing a sterling job
when it comes to reaching out to sufferers.
This is done through 20 support groups, four clinic sisters who conduct
wellness days and five staff members who man the office. Two of the staff
are peer educators who visited schools and encouraged around 20 000 learners
to live healthy lifestyles between January and June this year alone.
But keeping the Durban office open and this work continuing is a constant
battle, she admits.
“This year, Jenny Russel and Sister Pilile Dlamini managed to get a face to
face meeting with the MEC for Health and his staff. They requested finance
to train a member of staff in every provincial hospital. They were told to
get money from overseas. There was no money available from the province for
training!” she says.
So what can people do to help in this seemingly hopeless situation?
“Encourage as many people as possible to take part in the Durban Wellness
Festival which is held every November. We average 1 500 walkers which is
minute when compared to the other fun runs held in Durban throughout the
year. We desperately need more people to support this and other fund raising
activities,” she replies.
This year’s event, which will be held on Sunday, November 11, 2018, forms
part of the Durban Wellness Festival which celebrates all things healthy and
is proudly supported by SASA, Lilly and Clover Tropika Slenda and the Protea
Hotel by Marriott – Durban Edward.
All proceeds generated from the 5km fun run/walk is going towards Diabetes
The parting shot from Molyneaux is that everyone should go all out to look
after the one thing that money cannot buy – their health.
‘Make sure that you have a medical check-up once a year and insist that you
have a glucose test done. Be as active as you possibly can. For optimum
health, we need to spend three hours a week exercising – that’s not even
half an hour per day – and walking is quite acceptable!” she advises.