Diabetes sufferers "have quadrupled since 1980"

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This Cambodian man lost his leg to diabetes, which kills around 1.5 million people every year. Photo: IRIN

The number of people living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980, with more than 420 million people affected, UN health experts have warned.

Although the disease is often associated with richer countries, new data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that most sufferers are in developing nations.

In its first Global Report on Diabetes, WHO is calling for action to halt the rise of the disease and improve care for those who live with it.

Here's Daniel Johnson from Geneva.

Data from the UN health agency the WHO shows that diabetes is a growing global threat, particularly in poorer countries.

Characterised by high levels of blood sugar, the condition now affects more than 420 million people, compared with 108 million in 1980.

An estimated 1.5 million people die from illnesses associated with diabetes every year and more than 40 per cent of these deaths occur prematurely, before the age of 70.

These deaths are largely preventable, says UN health agency's Dr Etienne Krug:

"Clearly diabetes is on the rise and it's on the rise everywhere in all parts of the world. The highest rates are found in the WHO Middle Eastern region, in South-east Asia and the Pacific. But the rise is seen everywhere."

Factors driving this rise in sufferers include urbanisation, being overweight, a lack of exercise and a poor diet.

Now, in its first Global Report on Diabetes, WHO wants governments to take measures to support healthier lifestyles, as well as work to detect the disease earlier and provide better treatment.

A key challenge for WHO is addressing the fact that only one in three of the world's poorest countries has access to life-saving insulin, while the medicine's relatively high cost continues to cripple households in developing nations.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’16″


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