Diabetes prevention, care and management in humanitarian settings

humanitarian imageWorldwide, over 65 million people are displaced as a result of conflict and natural disasters. Many of them are living with diabetes. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that 1 in 11 people currently have diabetes. Some studies suggest the rate is higher in displaced populations. Among refugees for example, the prevalence of diabetes is estimated to be up to 50% higher than in the general population.

People living with diabetes need uninterrupted access to medicines and care, healthy food, and safe environments for physical activity, as well as information and guidance on how to manage their diabetes to prevent the development of complications. Undiagnosed and poorly controlled diabetes can lead to acute and life-threatening complications such as blindness, amputation, kidney failure, cardiovascular events and early death. Diabetes can inflict unnecessary suffering on individuals and their families and place a significant burden on healthcare resources that often struggle to cope. Caring for diabetes becomes even more difficult when disaster strikes.

Many countries, especially low and middle-income countries, are particularly vulnerable to disasters, whether natural or the result of conflict. They result in significant disruption to societies, economies and people’s lives. They require large-scale humanitarian help – both in the immediate aftermath and in the mid to long-term.

All too often, diabetes care is overlooked in the humanitarian response. Without concerted action at all levels, diabetes will continue to take a heavy toll on displaced populations, overwhelming health systems in countries most affected and hindering global efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically those related to the reduction of premature mortality from non-communicable diseases and universal access to essential healthcare services.

IDF has launched a multi-stakeholder initiative to make sure the voice of displaced people with diabetes is heard and their needs met. This initiative forms part of IDF's wider scope of humanitarian actions which include the IDF Life for a Child Programme and Diabetat.

IDF and its partners will build a global advocacy and communication platform to:

  • Raise awareness of the challenges of preventing and managing diabetes in humanitarian settings.
  • Encourage action, financial commitment and the development of financial mechanisms to improve health services and access to essential medicines and care in the immediate and longer-term response to humanitarian crises.

The first phase of the initiative will run from April to December and leverage key regional and global events to disseminate key messages and recommendations.

The initiative, supported by a grant from the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF), is overseen by a Steering Committee that includes representatives from:

  • IDF regions
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • WDF
  • Santé Diabète Mali

View the full components of the Steering Committee.

More information along with advocacy and communications materials will be made available here when ready.

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