In Testing, testing Part 1 I wrote that part 2 would include a contribution from a young person in Kenya. This blog is about raising awareness, and that includes me. I have been inspired by a young man called Joseph who lives in Kenya to learn more about the challenges facing those across the world who live with Type 1 diabetes. The sobering reality is that if you have Type 1 in many parts of the world you face enormous difficulties.
First I would like to introduce Joseph. He is thirteen years old and lives with his family in a village called Vipingo in Kenya. He attends school there at the Future Hope Montessori School where he enjoys a a varied curriculum including sport. Joseph is a smart and cheerful young man who likes reading and playing football. He has been living with Type 1 diabetes for 5 years. Joseph relies on blood testing strips to check his blood glucose several times a day. Unfortunately in Kenya, as in many places in the world, these are not provided free as they are in the UK. One month’s supply costs about £40. Joseph attends the Kemri Centre in Kilifi Hospital monthly for check ups and to pick up his supplies of insulin and testing strips. When Joseph turned thirteen he was no longer eligible for free supplies to manage his diabetes. Now the school buys everything. Joseph’s family are not able to afford it. This is how I first heard about Joseph. A friend of ours helps manage the charity that runs the school, and appealed to people for someone to sponsor the testing strips. The family and the school health officer had tried to ‘ration’ the blood tests each day, but this led to blood sugars running too high or too low, and Joseph ended up in hospital for 2 weeks.
Of course Joseph is one of many in Kenya with Type 1 diabetes. According to the charity Type 1 International full diabetes management in Kenya can cost $120 (US) and the average monthly salary is $216. In other countries around the world the percentage of average income can be as high as 82%. That leaves people with very difficult choices, including missing insulin doses. Of course many people won’t even have a choice – they simply will not have the money, like Joseph’s family.
It’s difficult to write this – but it’s important to realise that if you don’t manage Type 1 diabetes your life will be shortened. That’s the reality. And for many people around the world it’s not the lack of will to keep control of those d*mn blood sugars – it’s the lack of resources.
Reading the story of Cate on the Type 1 International website made me sad. She lived with diabetes for 30 years, and died of related complications before she was 40. In her life she advocated for people with Type 1 in Kenya – campaigning for better medical care and raising awareness at government level of the need for accessibility to screening, medical care and affordable supplies.
Other organisations also work in Kenya trying to improve the lives of children and adults with Type 1 (and their families who often have to work extra to afford the costs of insulin and testing kits). The World Diabetes Foundation has run projects for people directly affected, and healthcare workers to raise awareness and help manage the condition more effectively. The projects include camps for children and their parents. I think this is so important. One of the themes that has emerged from Joseph and Cate’s stories is the sense of ‘otherness’ experienced by them, and wanting to be like the other children. It’s like that wherever you are in the world, but how much harder to deal with in a country where, in the words of the World Diabetes Foundation:
poverty, stigmatisation, ignorance, myths and poor access to quality treatment often add to the difficulties people with the condition face.
I don’t want to end this piece on a downer. Although I do want readers to take away a sense of the enormous disparity in health care across the world.
Good news: Joseph can now test his blood glucose whenever he needs to because he has a sponsor. There are many, many people across the world who are working to raise awareness at an individual level as well as campaigning for international government action to provide better access to medicines and kit to help people manage their Type 1 the best they possibly can.
I have reproduced this lovely letter from Joseph with his permission. I am so happy that we can help him to manage his diabetes. Be proud of who you are Joseph! You can do anything you want in life!
Thank you for reading. I’m raising money for research into Type 1 diabetes here – thanks for your generosity.