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First Person: A Diabetes Fighter In Eswatini Pours All Her Efforts Into Beating COVID-19

UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi | Children in
Eswatini play at a primary school in Lobamba

Dumsile Mavuso, the
founder and head of Eswatini’s first national association
for people with diabetes, is now bringing her knowledge and
experience to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, in collaboration
with the Government and the UN.

association trained over 300 caregivers, who can empower
other community leaders, and ensure that their support
groups are effective. In addition, we led an initiative to
train a total of 48 rural health motivators in five
chiefdoms in the region of Shiselweni, and another group of
20 rural health motivators was trained in the Lubombo

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A lack of

Even though the lockdown negatively
affected our operations, we managed to visit health centers
across the country, and we soon discovered that most rural
clinics did not have relevant and adequate medication, so we
pressed for more of them to made available, working closely
with the Ministry of Health.

We have also been in
close contact with the United Nations: the UN country team
in Eswatini has intensified its effort to help the
government procure sufficient stocks of medical supplies at
health care facilities in response to the coronavirus
pandemic, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has supported
Diabetes Association Eswatini in developing information and
educational materials, helping us to communicate a wide
variety of critical issues such as nutrition, coping
mechanisms, and prevention.

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Creating opportunities
out of the COVID crisis

When I was diagnosed with
diabetes in 2005, I didn’t know how to deal with my
condition, and there was no help readily available. I was in
a coma for three days and, when I woke up, I told myself
that I was going to learn everything there was to learn
about this disease. Since then, nothing has stopped me from
going the extra mile to fulfil my purpose: spreading my
knowledge and helping other diabetic patients. Not even COVID-19.

this time of economic crisis, we are also helping people
with diabetes to improve their livelihoods. For example, I
mobilized a group of women in my community to start a
textile and handicraft business. I was lucky enough to
successfully convince local textile companies to donate
waste material to us, that we recycle to produce a lot of
useful products that we then sell to the community,
including facemasks, soaps and sanitizers.

And we have
other plans to help unemployed young people to make a
living: a branch of the association in Shiselweni, located
in the south of the country, has embarked on a project to
establish a vocational centre that will provide them with
this skills they need.

We must create a stronger
health system to meet the needs of people living with
diabetes. There’s a lot of work to do if we are to have a
healthier future in Eswatini: we need to invest more in
prevention, early diagnosis, screening, treatment, and

Diabetes in

  • Diabetes Association Eswatini has
    established 114 support groups nationwide, each educating an
    average of 600 people on the disease every year, including
    both people with diabetes and those impacted by
  • According to WHO, people
    with non-communicable diseases are more vulnerable to
    becoming severely ill or die from COVID-19. These
    diseases include cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory
    disease, diabetes mellitus and cancer.
  • As of 7 March
    2021, the Kingdom of Eswatini, with a population of over one
    million, recorded a total of 17,184 coronavirus cases
    over 658 deaths. Most of these deaths were related to
    pre-existing medical conditions that the deceased
  • WHO reports that, in January 2021, 82 per cent
    of all COVID-19 related deaths in Eswatini were among people
    who had coexisting conditions, especially hypertension and

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