“When I was initially diagnosed with diabetes, my life was forever changed. I saw many people with diabetes have their feet cut off and I was afraid I would also have mine cut off as well”.
A quietly spoken Mrs Siloute says her fears intensified when a sore grew and eventually covered her whole foot.
Once people have their foot amputated, their quality of life is forever changed. They become less capable to care for themselves and their loved ones. Unless their blood sugar is controlled, they will progress to complications such as kidney failure, blindness, stroke and heart attacks. Once an amputation occurs, their risk of death is very high.
Local nurses note that in the past, Mrs Siloute’s foot would have been amputated without hesitation. Now they (local nurses) are armed with the knowledge shared by a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) volunteer, nurse Tomoko Hamada, on how amputation can be avoided by thoroughly washing the ulcerated foot with soap and water, apply a medical ointment that softens unhealthy tissue and keeping the wound wrapped to keep it moist in order to heal.
This treatment method has since been applied to Mrs Siloute’s affected foot and she is very ecstatic with the results.
“I am amazed how my foot looks so much better and I hope one day I will be able to walk again.”
A local diabetic nurse at Gizo Hospital says, “My diabetic patients now remain active, play with their kids and live relatively normal lives. I feel great that I am able to help them live normal lives as much as possible and overall, about my work at Gizo hospital.”
Diabetes wasn’t common in the past when food from the garden was the main diet and people were active. The disease became common when rice, instant noodles, sugar sweetened beverages, fast foods, often high in saturated or industrially produced “trans” fat staple replaced taro and cassava and became the normal diet. The increase of smoking, alcohol consumption and inactivity has also compounded the dramatic increase of risks of all major non-communicable diseases.
Currently, diabetes affects one in 7 people in Solomon Islands and most don’t know they have the disease until they have complications. Foot amputation due to uncontrolled diabetes is the most common surgery in major hospitals nationwide.
World Health Organization (WHO) global targets,adopted at the 75th World Health Assembly in 2022, are that 80% of people living with diabetes are diagnosed, 80% diabetics have good control of glycaemia and 80% of people with diagnosed diabetes have good control of blood pressure by 2030.
To address this scourge, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) recently commemorated World Diabetes Day by launching the Non-Communicable Disease Record Book to empower all Solomon Islanders with the know-how to understand the risks, how to prevent and detect, and how to manage all NCDs including diabetes.
The MHMS, National Referral Hospital (NRH) and WHO are currently working on the “NCD Roadmap” and other related strategic policies to accelerate actions to address NCDs and its risks.
Speaking to commemorate World Diabetes day, Director of Policy and Planning from MHMS, Mr. Ghemu says, “My appeal is that all of us join forces, to ensure all Solomon Islanders have access to diabetes prevention and care. All sectors have key-roles to play”.
MHMS, NRH and WHO are also working together to enable health centres and outpatient departments to better identify and manage diabetes and diabetic foot care.