15. Sep 2017

National Diabetes Program launched in Ramallah

Gwendolyn Carleton
The program, which involves key partners and is anchored within the framework of Palestine Ministry of Health National NCD Action Plan, will improve access to diabetes care and prevention for more than 1 million Palestinians.
Launch WDF15-1304, Ramallah, Sept 2017
From left: Mr Ahmad Abo Halaweh, Augusta Victoria Hospital; Dr Umaiyeh Khammash, Juzoor (and formerly UNRWA); Dr Anders Dejgaard, WDF; Dr Abdul Fatah, Palestine MoH; and Mrs Lisa Henry, DanChurchAid.
This week, efforts to improve diabetes care for Palestinians took a major step forward with the launch of a project targeting the northern region of the West Bank, where diabetes services currently are scarce.
On 14 September, representatives of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Dan Church Aid, UNRWA, Juzoor for Health and Social Development, the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) and WDF launched the Palestine National Diabetes Program, WDF15-1304, at the Ministry of Health premises in Ramallah. 
“Diabetes is a huge challenge in Palestine with a current prevalence of 15,3%. This multi-stakeholder project is a vital response to the burden that we are witnessing – and Palestine MoH is proud to be a lead partner in the upcoming implementation,” said Dr Abdul Fatah, MoH General Director of Tulkarm. 
Dr Nancy Falah, Director of MoH NCD Unit, added: “If MoH had the resources we would replicate the approach of the project to all our health facilities throughout Palestine.”
The project’s goal is to support the Palestinian Authority’s National Health Strategy, which identifies diabetes as a national health priority and allocates resources and services to respond to it. The project involves all the key stakeholders working on NCDs in Palestine, and builds on learnings from previous WDF-funded projects in the southern region of the West Bank, where WDF and its partners have been active since 2002. The project will target marginalised segments of the Palestinian population with limited access to diabetes services and with a high prevalence of diabetes and related complications.
The project will:
Upgrade two MoH and one UNRWA model centres
Upgrade four MoH and two UNRWA intermediate level clinics 
Train 272 health care providers and 75 community health workers
Provide 34,000 diabetes patients with improved access to care
Treat 750 women with hyperglycaemia in pregnancy
Diagnose and treat 2,000 people with retinopathy
Diagnose and treat 5,000 people with foot complications
Increase diabetes awareness in approx. 1.2 million people 
Identify and register approx. 14,500 refugees with diabetes 
Screen approx. 10,000 high risk residents for diabetes
Establish a monitoring and evaluation system for diabetes care/prevention, including enrolment of registered patients and incl clinical indicators
Much still to be done
The project was born during a WDF visit to Palestine in April-May 2015, during discussions with partners about how best to move the diabetes response in Palestine forward. Coordination among those currently working on the task was key. So was learning from their experiences.
Other concerns also arose. There was the need to focus on hyperglycaemia in pregnancy, because of the high levels of overweight and obesity and high fertility rate in Palestinian women. There was the need for greater focus on foot and eye complications. Participants also discussed the need for wider awareness of diabetes, in the general population and in children and adolescents. (Diabetes prevalence in the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza and E. Jerusalem is in the range of 15.3%, compared to a worldwide prevalence of 6%, according to the IDF, Palestine MoH and other published sources.)
“We are delighted that this important program is now launched and anchored in the Palestine Ministry of Health,” said Anders Dejgaard, WDF Managing Director. “We look forward to supporting our strong partners in their efforts to improve access to diabetes care and prevention of the disease in the northern West Bank.
“There is much work still to be done within a challenging context,” he added. ”But we have the best stakeholders on board to face this together.”