Diabetic Patients Want More Vigorous Awareness Created In Health Policies

“It is time that people eat healthy food, make good decisions about what’s good for their body and make sure that they get regular checkups.”
09 Nov 2022 17:20
Diabetic Patients Want More Vigorous Awareness Created In Health Policies
Nirmala Wati with her daughter, Shivani Singh. Photo: Josefa Babitu

Nirmala Wati constantly thinks of the life she would have had, had she made better lifestyle choices.

More than 20 years ago, the 68-year-old was diagnosed with diabetes.

She used to operate a thriving a shop in the Old Capital, Levuka. At the time she was diagnosed, she did not take it seriously.

Ms Wati stuck to the lifestyle she enjoyed until last year when an object fell on her knee and the disease began to take its toll.

She was left without a choice but to close the shop she’d been operating for more than 30 years to focus on her injury and deteriorating health.


In February, she underwent a surgery that altered her life since. Her left leg had to be amputated because the injury had worsened.

“I became very weak when I was told that I would need surgery,” she said.

“I was hesitant because this would be the first time something so big was going to happen to me, but my daughters made me understand the situation I was in.”

Last week, Ms Wati became one of the first recipients of a prosthetic leg thanks to the Jaipur Foot Camp in Tamavua.

Jone Vesikula. Photo: Josefa Babitu

Jone Vesikula. Photo: Josefa Babitu

While she is currently rehabilitating at the camp and making progress, she admitted that her younger self was ‘careless’.

“People should start eating healthy food and adopt a healthy lifestyle,” she said at the camp.

For Jone Vesikula, the story is quite similar.

Two years ago, the 61-year-old’s leg was amputated.

“My youngest son has to stay with me because I need him to help me get by apart from my wife,” he said.


The Verata, Tailevu, man said diabetes was in genes, but he did not dream of a day that he would have to lose a part of his body.

“I did not go for regular checkups which I regret today.

“It is time that people eat healthy food, make good decisions about what’s good for their body and make sure that they get regular checkups.”

Stories like Ms Wati’s and Mr Vesikula’s are relatable for many Fijians.


NCD Stats

Diabetes is one such disease that comes under non-communicable diseases (NCDs), a disease caused by one’s lifestyle such as eating and living habits.

Other main NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

NCDs are in fact the biggest killer in the nation, annually.

Around 84 per cent of deaths in Fiji are caused by NCDs.

Permanent Secretary, Dr James Fong, revealed that a lot of these deaths were below the age of 70 years.


“Our age longevity is still about 67 years,” he said.

Dr Fong said that many of these deaths were from youths and that there was a need to address the problem much earlier.

It has been reported that the fight against NCDs in the country costs over $500 million.

When Ms Wati and Ms Vesikula were asked about what people like them wanted from Government, the answers were almost identical.

“We want vigorous awareness to help people, especially the future generation, to live healthier lifestyles,” they said.

Fiji Sun reached out to some political parties on their health policies.



Social Democratic Liberal Party general secretary, Lenaitasi Duru, said their party was serious about tackling NCDs and would create avenues where this would be addressed.

Creation of special facilities to address the threat of NCDs in the country is a policy they will implement, according to the party manifesto.

The party will also provide free medical specialized care for those who cannot provide it and improve the supply chain management to minimize drug shortage in medical centres.

It will provide free dialysis to people and will improve medical facilities in the country.


Unity Fiji

Launched last Friday, Unity Fiji’s manifesto detailed $200 million increase in the health ministry’s budget to repair and upgrade medical facilities in the country.

Among the upgrades are facilities where NCD patients get help.

Party leader, Savenaca Narube, said they would be making dialysis free for patients who could not afford it.

He said they would channel most of its resources towards awareness to prevent people getting sick with NCDs.

This includes community trips and facilities that would help fight NCDs. The party has plans to increase the minimum wages to $5 an hour to help people develop a healthy lifestyle and cope with the high cost of living as well.




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