A life dedicated to fighting diabetes in Ethiopia

A life dedicated to fighting diabetes in Ethiopia

January 6, 2020 0 By Bertrand Dibbert


For me it’s a simple story. My mom and my dad are nurses and I grew up in a hospital, My mom and my dad are nurses and I grew up in a hospital, and I liked the profession so when I finished High School I wanted to become a doctor. There are seven endocrinologists in Ethiopia and I am one of them. The number of people living with diabetes in Ethiopia is close to three million and that makes it the first country in the sub-Saharan Africa in the number of people living with diabetes. For many years our health care system is designed to respond to infectious diseases. Infectious disease is one contact; so you have Malaria and you get treated and you go home. Our system is not organized to care for chronic illnesses. Diabetes is a self-managed disease. So, if you have an indicated patient, actually the best doctor for diabetes is the patient himself. In general we have a less literate society. So it’s very difficult to educate people about diabetes or even about other health problems At first, I didn’t have the knowledge and I was not making choices in food. I preferred to eat only fatty meals. I used fat for every meal I took. But, after coming to Black Lion Hospital, I learned a lot and started to avoid fat and oil from my meal. But, life is sometimes hard. So, I eat anything I get when I feel hunger and I become ill. Once I feel illness, I will avoid that meal. If you have diabetes in the rural setting, it becomes more complicated in terms of getting access to health care, in terms of getting access to health care, in terms of getting access to health care, affording treatment or follow-up for the patients from the rural setting. If they are referred for consultation with an endocrinologist they have to travel from their home all the way to Addis and some of our patients have to travel two days by bus. Some from the rural area may walk on foot until they get a bus to come to Addis Ababa. I came to get treatment for diabetes. I used public transport to cover the 300 km. I came to get treatment for diabetes. I used public transport to cover the 300 km. We stay at hotels for 4-5 days. We don’t get insulin for diabetes in my area. That is why we came all the way here. Even if one manages to come here, it may be hard to pay for hotel expenses. If we have more skilled physicians in regions, it would have been a relief to us. The system, when you have chronic diseases you need working referral system with them. Where patients know where to go when they have diabetes, where do you go. Where patients know where to go when they have diabetes, where do you go. Where patients know where to go when they have diabetes, where do you go. Nationally we need policy, we need more priority for noncommunicable disease. Nationally we need policy, we need more priority for noncommunicable disease. And then we have to train more nurses and doctors for treating or caring for people with diabetes. for treating or caring for people with diabetes. After I finished medical school, I stayed in Ethiopia because I hoped that I could contribute to the change that we need to improve the health care system in Ethiopia and as a doctor or as a highly trained person I wanted to be part of that change. People think disease comes from evil spirit or people think disease comes from curse. The health seeking behavior of the patients also, they don’t come early for testing. They don’t do annual check-ups so we don’t pick diabetes early. The health seeking behavior of the patients also, they don’t come early for testing. They don’t do annual check-ups so we don’t pick diabetes early. So we find patients late.