7 April 2013
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) marked World Health Day today by launching a campaign to combat the growing problem of diabetes and high blood pressure in the Palestine refugee community in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, and Lebanon. The six-month pilot campaign, “Life is Sweeter with Less Sugar”, is part of a wider initiative funded by the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) to improve early detection and management of diabetes and high blood pressure among Palestine refugees.
“For several years now, diabetes and high blood pressure cases have increased exponentially on a global level, with no exception in the Palestine refugee community,” said Director of UNRWA Health Dr Akihiro Seita. “This campaign aims to bring real benefits to the lives of Palestine refugees, while tackling the growing costs of treatment and easing the burden on UNRWA’s donors.”
In the last ten years, the number of patients with diabetes and high blood pressure at UNRWA’s 139 clinics in the region has more than doubled, rising from 104,742 in 2002 to 211,533 in 2011. Today, 45 per cent of registered UNRWA diabetic patients have sustained high blood pressure, a number that is expected to increase. Forty-one per cent of UNRWA’s medicine budget is spent on diabetes and high blood pressure medication alone.
“With alarmingly high diabetes prevalence rates among the Palestinian population, WDF is happy to work in partnership with UNRWA to ensure increased quality of diabetes care across the areas where Palestinians live - not only in the West Bank and Gaza but also among refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon,” said WDF Managing Director Dr Anders Dejgaard.
Under the current WDF-supported project, UNRWA provides close to 100 nurses and doctors a refresher training course on diabetes prevention, management and treatment, and thirty clinics have been preparing to pilot the campaign’s initiatives aiming to strengthen UNRWA’s current diabetes care programme. Strengthening medical care, building community and patient awareness, and screening of 30,000 persons living inside and outside UNRWA refugee camps are three core components of UNRWA’s campaign.
This week, the campaign kicks off with health education and awareness activities in UNRWA’s schools throughout the region, diabetes and high blood pressure screening in the community at large, and the formation of cooking and exercise sessions for patients dealing with diabetes and/or high blood pressure.
All activities are supported by a wide range of partnering organizations across four of UNRWA’s fields of operations, including the World Diabetes Foundation, the European Union, and the World Food Programme. In Gaza, additional partners include: the World Health Organization, the Union Health Work Committee, the Union Health Care Committee, and Help Age International. In the West Bank, additional partners include: An-Najah University, Al-Quds University, Bethlehem University, the Juzour Foundation, and the Augusta Victoria Hospital. In Jordan, partners include the King Hussein Cultural Center and the Royal Health Awareness Society (RHAS); and in Lebanon, partners include the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, the Nabaa Palestinian Women Humanitarian Organization, the Women’s Program Association, and the Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation.
To watch a short video about awareness-raising activities in UNRWA schools, click here.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency‘s General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 67.2 million.
About the World Diabetes Foundation
The World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) supports projects focusing on diabetes awareness, education and capacity building related to prevention and treatment of diabetes in developing countries. WDF has funded 317 projects to date, covering 106 countries.
For more information, please contact:
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724