23. May 2017

In Mali, youth with diabetes gain skills and support

Gwendolyn Carleton
The two camps were another outcome of a WDF fundraiser project benefiting young Malians with diabetes.
Young women with type 1 diabetes at a camp learning session. CLICK ABOVE TO SEE A SHORT FILM.
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Makani learned what diabetes is. Oumar learned how to store insulin. And Esther learned that she’s not alone.
They were three of the 96 young people who attended camps in December that were especially designed for Mali’s youth with diabetes. The camps were organised by the NGO Santé Diabete, with support from the World Diabetes Foundation and other local and international sponsors.
Two camps were held, one for youth aged 15 to 20 years, and another for younger children aged 9 to 14. During each 5-day camp, the young participants learned about diabetes through customised educational materials, lectures and games. Topics ranged from understanding and interpreting test results to learning how to handle situations related to adolescence when you have type 1 diabetes.
“Therapeutic education is the key to success in treating diabetes,” explains Dr Amagara Togo, an endocrinologist working in the clinic for children and adolescents with diabetes in the Hospital of Mali, in Bamako. “For example, we need to explain how important the injections and regulation of their diabetes is to avoiding hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemic coma, and avoiding complications in the future.”
Education needed
This education is badly needed, says Stéphane Besançon, director of the NGO Santé Diabète, which has been working with the WDF to improve diabetes care in Mali since 2004. While screening for type 1 diabetes became widespread in Mali around 2012, many youth diagnosed with the disease still need help to manage it properly.
“For 5 years, children have been screened and are living with type 1 diabetes in Mali through the support of the Life For A Child programme, but their Hba1c remains high due to lack of education. These camps, organised with the support of the WDF, are key to continuing to grow the quality of care for these children while greatly improving their Hba1c,” he says.
Materials prepared for the camps are also being used the clinic in the Hospital of Mali. Both the clinic and camps were made possible by a WDF fundraiser project benefitting Mali’s young people with diabetes. 
Not alone
But education was just part of the camps – another key aspect is social, organisers say.
“By gathering together, they will get to know each other and exchange experiences, so they can take charge of their diabetes together,” Dr Togo says.
“The training provided me knowledge about diabetes – I understood a lot of things I didn’t know before,” Oumar Diakité, 17, told a film crew visiting one of the camps.
“I really didn’t understand how to do injections,” said Makani Diakité, 18. “I didn’t even know what diabetes was, but I learned everything here. It reassured me, because I didn’t know that there are a lot of young girls who had diabetes and live well with diabetes.”
“Spending time with my friends made me feel good,” agreed Esther Harouna Maiga, 18. “Now I know I’m not alone.”
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