Statement of the Representative of FAO, Ms Khanyisile Mabuza, at the Diabetes Eswatini Women’s Month Commemoration

On Saturday, 27th March, the United Nations and Diabetes Eswatini celebrated Women's Month.

  • It is with the utmost pleasure and humility that I stand before you today, on behalf of the United Nations Development System in Eswatini. We are grateful to share today’s significant event with you, as we acknowledge the strength and resilience of persons with diabetes in Eswatini and the ‘silent killer’ that is diabetes.
  • Diabetes is a growing global health issue with nearly half a billion people worldwide living with diabetes. This number is expected to rise exponentially to 700 million people by 2045.
  • Deaths from diabetes have increased by 70 percent globally between 2000 and 2019: women often have more serious complications and are at a greater risk of death than men, with diabetes as the 9th leading cause of death in women.
  • Women with diabetes are often prone to discrimination, with existing socio-economic inequalities exacerbating their vulnerability. Oftentimes, this discrimination negatively impacts women’s access to health services, exposing women to many health risks. For instance, nearly half of women who are diagnosed with hyperglycemia during pregnancy, largely in developing countries where access to maternal care is limited, develop type 2 diabetes within five years of delivery. Women with type 1 diabetes also have an increased risk of early miscarriage or having a baby with malformations.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed the vulnerability of people with diabetes to the virus. Shockingly, nearly 1 in 5 COVID-19 deaths in the African region are linked to diabetes.
  • Studies state that women account for over 70 percent of COVID-19 infections among healthcare workers: there is therefore a serious need to protect our women healthcare workers, especially those with diabetes, as they fight on the frontlines against the coronavirus.
  • As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten reversing progress made towards achieving Agenda 2030, and in turn, SDG 3: ‘Good health and well-being for all,’ the United Nations stands in solidarity with the people of Eswatini. People with diabetes must be protected and empowered, particularly women who are exceptionally vulnerable to the disease and continue to show every day strength and courage as individuals, mothers, daughters and community leaders.
  • Gender equality and health go hand-in-hand and we cannot achieve one without the other. Diabetes Eswatini’s gathering today and its initiative to call for volunteer nurses, doctors or and health workers to respond to urgent calls when a community member with diabetes is in critical need, is a crucial step to ensuring health and well-being for all.  We cannot afford to leave our brothers and sisters with diabetes behind.
  • As the great African Proverb says: “one finger cannot lift up a thing”: we are in this battle against diabetes and COVID-19 together, and it is only through solidarity that we will be victorious. I would therefore like to encourage you all to take heed of Diabetes Eswatini’s call: an important step in ensuring a; ‘prosperous, just and resilient Eswatini where no one is left behind’.
  • As I close, I would like to acknowledge the immense strength, bravery and resilience of all who are here today, as well as those who are fighting the ‘silent killer’. Your struggles are seen and heard and we look forward to continuing our growing partnership with Diabetes Eswatini to end the devastation of diabetes in our beloved nation.
  • Let us stand together to protect our loved ones living with diabetes.

I thank you.

UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
World Health Organization