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IDF launches initiative to improve health services for displaced people with diabetes

IDF launches initiative to improve health services for displaced people with diabetes

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International Diabetes Federation announces initiative to improve diabetes care in humanitarian settings.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that four million people living with diabetes are forcibly displaced as a result of man-made and natural disasters. In these difficult circumstances, people with diabetes often struggle to manage their condition and are at increased risk of disability and early death. In order to raise awareness of the challenges of preventing and managing diabetes in humanitarian settings, IDF has launched a multi-stakeholder initiative to encourage action, improve health services and ensure access to essential medicines for displaced people with diabetes.

Managing diabetes is not always easy. It can cause unnecessary suffering for individuals and their families and place a significant burden on healthcare resources. Caring for diabetes becomes particularly difficult when people are forced to flee.

Undiagnosed and poorly controlled diabetes can lead to acute and life-threatening complications such as blindness, amputation, kidney failure, cardiovascular events and early death. Worldwide, IDF estimates that one in two people are undiagnosed. People in humanitarian settings face an even greater risk of under-diagnosis.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 65 million people displaced as a result of conflicts alone. Conflicts and disasters result in large-scale movements of populations. Their arrival into unprepared locations puts severe pressure on healthcare resources and poses a significant challenge. Health systems struggle to respond to the emergency and provide healthcare for the new arrivals and their existing population.

Limited research has been conducted to assess the burden of diabetes among displaced people. Where studies have been undertaken, they suggest higher diabetes prevalence rates than in the general population.

Forcibly displaced people with diabetes may not be able to gain access to the medicines and supplies they need and emergency healthcare personnel are not always trained to deal with the condition. This situation is compounded by disruption to food, water, and utilities.

Commenting on the new initiative, IDF President Professor Nam H. Cho said:

People living with diabetes must be able to access the essential medicines and care they need to manage the condition and avoid its debilitating complications. For some, this is a matter of life or death. Securing immediate access to essential medicines is a priority when people with diabetes are forced to flee their homes. The supply must be uninterrupted and provided at no or very low cost so that medicines are not priced out of the hands of those who need them most. All too often, the care for people with diabetes is overlooked in the response to a humanitarian crisis. We are calling for concerted action to make sure the healthcare needs of people with diabetes are not disregarded when disaster strikes.

IDF calls on national governments, international and donor organizations, civil society and the private sector to:

  • Guarantee uninterrupted access to diabetes medication and care for all forcibly-displaced people with diabetes and integrate diabetes care as a key component of the humanitarian response
  • Increase funding to strengthen health systems in areas with a high burden of displaced populations
  • Conduct research to assess the exact burden of diabetes among forcibly displaced people

The multi-stakeholder campaign involves representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). It is supported by a grant from the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF).

“WDF is delighted support this effort to improve diabetes care in humanitarian settings. Our vision is to alleviate the burden of diabetes among people that are most vulnerable to the disease. Reducing the suffering caused by diabetes during crises is central to that vision – and a priority for WDF, given the growing number of displaced people worldwide,” said Jakob Sloth Madsen, Program Manager, WDF.

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