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Dementia poses major challenge in Africa

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Published Sep 28, 2017

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A new study has found that dementia will affect 3.4 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

With September being World Alzheimer’s Month, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), the membership organisation representing 90 Alzheimer’s and dementia organisations globally, yesterday released a report on dementia in sub-Saharan Africa at its 4th sub-Saharan African Regional Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

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The report found that an estimated 2.13 million people were living with dementia in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, with numbers projected to nearly double every 20 years, increasing to 3.48 million by 2030 and 7.62 million by 2050.

Paola Barbarino, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Disease International, said: “This report provides important evidence of the huge scale of

the challenge we face on multiple fronts in sub-Saharan Africa.

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“Not only is dementia hidden socially, but governments must to do more to enhance the infrastructure needed to support those affected. 

"We are calling on all the governments in the region to take the issue up urgently.”

ADI recommended that health-care systems be strengthened to provide support for people with dementia and their care partners, including public campaigns that challenge discrimination and also increasing access to social protection, including pension schemes.

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Dr Kerryn Armstrong, a psychiatrist at Akeso Clinic in Milnerton, said: “Dementia is a broad term used to refer to a range of neurocognitive deficits that represent a decline from the individual’s previous level of cognitive performance.

“Various processes may contribute to this decline, with Alzheimer’s disease being one of these processes.”

Armstrong said while there was no cure for the disease “therapy and medication” were used to slow the rate of decline, with additional medications to manage behavioural, mood and symptoms”.

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Armstrong said the disease “gradually wreaks havoc with a patient’s brain, memory and bodily functions”.

She said caring for the person takes a heavy toll on loved ones and family members.

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