World Health Day 2013

01 April 2013


The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) marks this year’s World Health Day with a campaign to combat diabetes and sustained high blood pressure, or hypertension among Palestine refugees. In cooperation with the World Diabetes Foundation, UNRWA is launching a six-month pilot campaign, entitled “Life is Sweeter with Less Sugar”, which is part of a wider initiative to improve the detection and treatment of diabetes and high blood pressure among Palestine refugees.

Today, 45 per cent of registered UNRWA diabetic patients also have high blood pressure, and that number is expected to increase. Sharing similar physiological traits, the two conditions are interconnected; the effects of one tend to increase the likelihood of developing the other.
Since 1992, UNRWA has included treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure in its primary health care service for Palestine refugees. By 2011, the Agency was treating over 200,000 patients with diabetes and/or high blood pressure per year, and spending 41 per cent of its medication budget on drugs to treat the two conditions.
The “Life is Sweeter with Less Sugar” campaign aims to help Palestine refugees to prevent and control diabetes and high blood pressure through four actions:
  • Training UNRWA health staff to counsel sufferers;
  • Screening UNRWA patients at high risk for diabetes and high blood pressure;
  • Establishing community kitchens to practice healthy cooking;
  • Forming exercise groups in the refugee community for diabetes patients.
Activities kicking off this week include open screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure for patients at UNRWA clinics, and  awareness-raising activities at UNRWA schools throughout the region, practical tips on healthy cooking, and the formation of exercise groups in the refugee community.
Read our World Health Day fact sheet for more information. 

Stories from the field

Palestine refugees struggle with trauma and lack of protection in conflict-torn Syria

45-year-old Nidal, a long-term sufferer of high blood pressure and diabetes, is currently taking shelter in UNRWA’s Damascus Training Centre. After losing his main source of livelihood as a taxi driver when he and his family fled to the training centre three months ago, Nidal is unable to afford life-saving medicine. Read the full story.

A life filled with tragedy, Gaza woman learns she has diabetes and hypertension

“We do not have a history of such diseases in our family,” says Hasan, while escorting his mother, Nimeh, to the Sabra health centre in Gaza for regular check-ups. “But between the stress and trauma our bereaved family has been suffering from, and the impact of the ugly blockade and related economic trouble, many members of my family have been suffering from high stress and depression—including my sick mother.” Read the full story.
UNRWA’s screening of one disease reveals another
Late last year, UNRWA launched a thalassemia and sickle-cell anaemia testing and awareness campaign at Burj Shemali camp in Lebanon. Part of the campaign involved screening residents for the two diseases, and an unexpected result of the screenings was the unusually high number of participants with irregular or high blood sugar levels. The original campaign did not intend to focus on diabetes, but it provided valuable insight into the need for the Agency to do so, as high blood sugar levels increase the risk of developing Type II Diabetes. Read the full story
UNRWA and Juzoor Foundation introduce healthy food at West Bank school
In a new initiative, UNRWA teams up with the Juzoor Foundation for Health and Social Development and the French Social Development Fund to introduce healthy food in school canteens. “All of us now buy food from the canteen. It’s healthy, but it’s also tasty!” says Lara, a 15-year old student at an UNRWA school in Shu’fat refugee camp, East Jerusalem. Read the full story.
UNRWA marks World Health Day with drawing competition in Syria
Despite the difficult and unstable situation in Syria, UNRWA is marking World Health Day with a drawing competition for its school students in the war-torn country. Children aged 6 to 15 got busy with drawings on the theme of diabetes and high blood pressure; part of the Agency’s World Health Day awareness-raising campaign, entitled “Life is sweeter with less sugar”.  Read the full story.
Zaal and Khadra perform at launching event for UNRWA’s diabetes and high blood pressure campaign
It was an evening of drama, entertainment and healthy food at the Hussein Culture Centre in Amman, as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and others commemorated World Health Day with the launching of the Agency’s diabetes and high blood pressure campaign, “Life is sweeter with less sugar.” Read the full story.

Educational tools

As part of its educational campaign to combat the diseases in the community, UNRWA’s health team developed a number of health brochures for community members, from young adults to the elderly to assist them with making healthier lifestyle choices. These can be found here: 
campaign poster nutrition poster diabetes care pamphlet srudent education brochure
Campaign Poster Nutrition Poster Diabetes Care Pamphlet Student Education Brochure

Our partners

UNRWA would like to extend its warmest appreciation to our partners locally and internationally, in the hospitals, universities, schools, as well as the community. Thank you for supporting our mission to improve the lives of Palestine refugees. 

World Diabetes Foundation World Food Programme European Union
World Health Organization Juzoor for Health and Social Development Bethlehem University Birzeit University
King Hussein Cultural Centre Royal Health Awareness Society Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Society NABAA Help Age International
UHCC AVH An-Najah National University Al Quds University Women‘s Humanitarian Organization Palestine Red Crescent Society Union of Health Work Committees Women Program Association Hebron Univeristy