Out of the 537 million people with diabetes worldwide, 24 million live in the African region, according to the International Diabetes Federation’s 2021 Diabetes Atlas estimates.
Among them is Mariam Manganè, recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and is among the 152,500 adults living with diabetes in Mali.
Despite its high prevalence in the region, this non-communicable disease is still largely misunderstood and stigmatised. It happened to Mariam too: at first, this diagnosis made her feel hopeless because of her prejudices against it.
She soon learned to accept her condition thanks to the educational activities organised by the Prevention House in Bamako.
‘For me, it was all over when I was diagnosed with diabetes’, Mariam says. ‘I became aware of my condition at the initiative of a community training session run by the peer educators of the Prevention House, which my husband attended. The session was about the signs of diabetes. My husband then connected the signs I was showing and those described by the peer educator, which he approached to have me screened.’
The peer educator referred them to a health centre for diagnosis, which was difficult to hear for Mariam. ‘At that precise moment, it was the end for me. I was anxious because of the prejudices I had about this disease.’
To help break the stigma and strengthen diabetes care and prevention, the WDF19-1736 project in Mali (successfully extended to Burkina Faso and the Union of Comoros) has implemented a unique element: the Prevention Houses.
The Prevention Houses are physical spaces created to raise awareness of diabetes and its risk factors and provide psychosocial assistance and therapeutic education. They are led by and for the community and offer workshops and training by community healthcare workers and peer educators.
‘My husband and I attended several diabetes sessions at the Prevention House based on a referral from a peer educator, covering diabetes prevention, risk factors, gestational diabetes and controlling your own diabetes', Mariam shared.
Thanks to these different training sessions, I knew that I was at risk (my children were born macrosomic), and I became more and more reassured’.
‘Now I no longer have the disease in my head. The Prevention House has helped me to accept it. It is a good place to talk to other patients, and now I am raising awareness around me. I want to be a peer educator.’
WDF has worked with diabetes educators in Mali since 2003, and a training manual for diabetes education was created to improve acceptance and add education as a key part of diabetes management and awareness.
The project implemented in Mali, Burkina Faso and the Union of Comoros aims to empower civil society to bring about change. It is led by local diabetes patient organisations in partnership with the Ministries of Health to consolidate the national response to diabetes care and prevention by elevating on-the-ground access to quality care and education.