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A remarkable increase in survival

If you are reading this, you likely have an understanding of the immense challenges faced by young people managing T1D in under-resourced communities. Now, imagine navigating this terrain in Burkina Faso, where the absence of pediatric endocrinologists adds an extra layer of difficulty.

In 2013, Life for a Child forged a groundbreaking partnership with Yalgado Ouedraogo University Hospital and the NGO Santé Diabète. This collaboration aimed to provide diabetes management supplies and reliable support to children and young people living with diabetes. We also started collecting data, to capture the health outcomes and experiences of young people we support.

Data on T1D is often scarce in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2013 there were only 22 known children and young adults with T1D under 25 years old in Burkina Faso. We knew from experience that there should be many more, and it was highly likely that many young people would be dying from misdiagnosis or lack of access to supplies and education. Today, after ten years working in the country, our suspicions have been confirmed. Between 2013 and 2022, 312 new cases of T1D were diagnosed, five cases of T2D and two suspected cases of maturity-onset diabetes of the young.

In the graph below, you can see sharply rising T1D incidence over the last ten years since Life for a Child commenced support in 2013, which is actually good news. This rise means far fewer young people are dying without a diagnosis.

Dr. Yempabou Sagna is an endocrinologist at our local partner center in Burkina Faso and one of the authors of the study. He said, “I think the most positive finding is that there is sharply rising T1D incidence, mainly due to increased detection rate with the support of Life for a Child. Many of these patients would likely have died unrecognized from non-diagnosis. This study will make it possible for decision-makers to understand that this type of diabetes also exists in Burkina Faso, and we hope that this will help to facilitate the subsidy of insulin.”

Due to the limited access to insulin and high prices, almost all children and youth with T1D in Burkina Faso are referred to Life for a Child.

Although there is no pediatric endocrinologist in the country, there are many skilled and dedicated healthcare professionals, and Life for a Child is very well known across the medical community. Indeed, all adult endocrinologists and internal medicine specialists in the country were involved in this study.

Dr. Yempabou Sagna said, “It was firstly the lack of specialists that motivated me to work in pediatric diabetes. In Burkina Faso, the management of childhood diabetes is integrated into adult services. In the long run, I would like to create pediatric endocrinology and diabetology department in my country.”

As of today, Life for a Child supports 315 children and young individuals across Burkina Faso.

We expect this number to continue to rise for some time, as long as access to supplies, education, and awareness improves. We are committed to providing ongoing support in these areas.

Dr. Sagna and his team are working hard to improve care and provide new opportunities for diabetes education and peer support. In 2022 they organised the country’s first ever T1D camp. This second camp in 2023 saw 58 young people attend for four days of games, peer support and diabetes education.

Despite this encouraging progress, the study shows that there is much work to be done.

The number of young people dying from diabetes and complications in Burkina Faso remains substantial. Non-diagnosis is thought to be the commonest cause. At the end of this study follow-up period, 271 of the 312 young people were known to be alive and were still followed up in hospitals. Among the 40 others, 23 had died, four had emigrated, and 14 were lost-to-follow-up.

We are determined to continue providing young people with insulin and blood glucose monitoring supplies, diabetes education resources and healthcare professional support. Burkina Faso will benefit from our recent program extension to provide support to young people up to the age of 30, and we are helping to provide equipment for regional health centres. In addition, we will continue to collect data, research and advocate for young people living with diabetes in the region.

Dr. Yempabou Sagna said “I think it is necessary that programs like Life for a Child should continue their action in developing countries like Burkina Faso because in view of this study, hundreds of lives have already been saved by early diagnosis.”

Explore the comprehensive study here.

Emma Klatman Global Policy and Advocacy Manager
Rachel Clayton Marketing and Communications Manager

Life for a Child USA Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization EIN 47-4901579.

Diabetes Overseas Aid Fund T/A Life for a Child is a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

Life for a Child is managed by Diabetes Australia.

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