In Tanzania, a type 1 advocate who knows what’s at stake

A child with type 1 diabetes grows up to fight for others living with the condition.
Anita Bulindi
Twelve years ago, Anita Bulinda was a child learning to live with type 1 diabetes. Today, she’s a co-founder of the Tanzanian Diabetes Youth Alliance.
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“When I finish school, I would love to be a lawyer,” young Anita Bulindi says confidently to the camera. ”Because I like to defend the people who have rights. That's what I like.”
 
When WDF first met Anita in 2005, she was a mischievous 10-year-old managing school, family, friends, and a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. During a visit to the diabetes clinic at Muhimbili National Hospital, her blood sugar was higher than expected, and she admitted to having eaten an ice cream. 
 
“I took it, nobody knew, but the sugar went high,” she admitted, smiling sweetly as her mother rolled her eyes.
 
12 years later, Ms Bulindi has the same ready smile. But she says that having type 1 diabetes has never been easy, now or then.
 
“Can you imagine as a kid you were told, if you  don't do this, you are gonna die!” she says today. “It was pretty hard, it was really hard. And I really didn't like it, at all.”
 
Trying to make a change
 
In some sub-Saharan countries in Africa, life expectancy for a child with type 1 diabetes is less than 1 year after diagnosis. Fewer than 30 Tanzanians were known to be living with type 1 diabetes in 2002.
 
Today, the situation in Tanzania is much improved. The country has 34 type 1 diabetes clinics supported by the International Diabetes Federation, the World Diabetes Foundation, Novo Nordisk A/S and other sponsors. Together, they treat approximately 2259 children and young people across the country. 
 
Ms Bulindi is part of this positive change. As a child, she learned to manage her diabetes at a WDF-supported clinic in Dar es Salaam. Today, she is a co-founder of the Tanzanian Diabetes Youth Alliance, an alliance under the umbrella of the Tanzania Diabetes Association that is working in more than 10 regions to enhance understanding of type 1 diabetes by improving education and type 1 health services where they are insufficient. 
 
The ultimate goal, she says, is a future where people with type 1 diabetes in Tanzania are fully controlled, and live healthy and comfortable lives like any child or youth.
 
The alliance “is a group of youth with diabetes in Tanzania, who are trying to make a change for our fellow youth who have diabetes, as well as children,” she explains. “We are part of this whole big family, with one thing in common; being diabetics.”
 
 
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