“We are like friends who care for each other”: That’s how 15-year-old Randa, a Palestine refugee student in Amman, described her life with diabetes. After the doctors and nurses of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) helped her learn to manage her condition, Randa joined the Agency staff in Amman on 20 November for a ceremony marking World Diabetes Day, where several activities to supplement UNRWA efforts against the disease.
Non-communicable diseases are becoming a major global health challenge, and diabetes – which is among the top ten causes of disability in adults, producing complications including blindness and the loss of limbs – is of particular concern to UNRWA. In 2011, 115,000 diabetic Palestine refugees sought care at UNRWA health centres; in Jordan, UNRWA spent 27 per cent of its medication budget treating the disease.
The number of patients has been rising for several years – as shown in the graph below – and while low-cost medicines are available, diabetes remains an expensive disease for UNRWA to treat. Luckily, a healthy lifestyle emphasizing physical activity and a nutritious diet can help prevent or delay the disease. In Amman, a skit by Jordanian comedy duo Zaal and Khadra – Rania and Hasan Sabaileh – highlighted the ways in which individuals can help reduce their risk for the disease.
UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Margot Ellis joined the celebration as well. In a speech to attendees including young Randa, she noted that collaborative efforts across the Agency had helped raise awareness about diabetes. Collaboration within the Agency and with patients themselves – including young patients like Randa – will help ensure that the health needs of the Palestine refugee community continue to be addressed.