The World Health Organisation (WHO)says there is increasing evidence that Africans living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension and diabetes are more likely to suffer severe cases of COVID-19 and die.
In South Africa, which accounts for nearly half of all cases and deaths on the continent, 61% of the COVID-19 patients in hospitals had hypertension and 52% had diabetes, and 45% of people aged 60–69 who died from COVID-19 also had hypertension.
In Kenya, around half of COVID-19 deaths occurred in people with NCDs, while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, such patients accounted for 85% of all COVID-19 deaths.
According to a WHO preliminary analysis of 14 countries in the African region, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma are the co-morbidities most associated with COVID-19 patients.
These chronic conditions require continuous treatment, but as governments address the ongoing pandemic, health services for NCDs have been severely disrupted.
In a statement, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti says, “Millions of Africans living with non-communicable diseases are at greater risk of complications or dying from COVID-19. So it is very concerning to find that just when people with hypertension and other chronic conditions most need support, many are being left out in the cold.”