07. Apr 2021

New partnership aims to improve treatment of NCDs in humanitarian settings

New partnership aims to improve treatment of NCDs in humanitarian settings

Bent Lautrup-Nielsen
WDF has received a grant of DKK 57.5 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation to advance a nationwide response to the high burden of NCDs among Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese host communities.
Over the past 15 years, WDF has supported numerous projects in Lebanon and the wider Middle East to address the burden from diabetes and other NCDs in settings of humanitarian crisis

A new partnership between Novo Nordisk Foundation, Danish Red Cross and World Diabetes Foundation will provide a much-needed investment into the health system in Lebanon. The four-year project will focus on the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and hypertension, which today constitute some of the most prevalent chronic diseases in the country, as in most other parts of the world.

Lebanon is passing through a protracted humanitarian crisis given the influx of more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees over the past decade. This has put an enormous strain on all parts of society not least in terms of access to health care. Despite the high and growing burden, the NCD area has been largely under-prioritised within the humanitarian response framework, having received very little support from the international community.

Through the partnership, Red Cross will engage its extensive global experience from the humanitarian field and its strong national and local presence in Lebanon, while the World Diabetes Foundation will catalyse its expertise within the area of diabetes and other NCDs in fragile contexts into a larger and wider collaborative framework. 

“Danish Red Cross and World Diabetes Foundation are among the few organisations based in Denmark with particular skills and capacity concerning prevention and treatment of NCDs in situations of humanitarian crisis. By joining forces, a considerable synergy could be released to the benefit of Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese host communities,” says Ms Hanna Line Jakobsen, Senior Vice President, Novo Nordisk Foundation. 

Integrated primary health care as the only viable solution

Apart from the continued challenges posed to health and health care, Lebanon is faced with economic instability and unrest, exacerbated by the explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened life-conditions across many communities and made more people dependent on a public health system access and support. Consequently, people living with NCDs, such as diabetes, are among those most severely at risk given the chronic nature of their disease and constant need for care, which often can be costly. 

The new project supported by Novo Nordisk Foundation will provide substantial support to the Lebanese health system through capacity building of up to 230 primary health care centres covering almost the entire country. The centres will receive medical equipment, and health care staff will be trained and given further resources towards monitoring and follow-up of patients with NCDs. Through these investments and activities, the centres will be more capable of screening for NCDs and of identifying people at risk. More than 100,000 people at risk are expected to be screened during the four-year project trajectory. 

“We are pleased with the opportunity to launch this project in Lebanon where we have a strong presence and significant experience within health promotion. The project will strengthen Lebanon’s health care system and contribute to improved resilience among some of the most vulnerable groups in the country,” Mr Peter Klansø, Head of International Relations, Danish Red Cross, says.

World Diabetes Foundation’s Managing Director, Mr Leif Fenger Jensen, highlights the innovative perspectives of the new partnership. “Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes must be integrated much more systematically into the humanitarian response, everywhere, given that such responses often are long term. We appreciate the increased engagement of Red Cross into this field and look forward to a close collaboration dedicated to improving the situation in Lebanon.”

The project is also intended to promote implementation research in the area of NCD prevention and treatment in humanitarian settings including through the close involvement of American University of Beirut, a leading academic institution in the Middle East region. The research will focus on accumulation of data and information, which can bring evidence to best practice and sustain an improved management of NCDs in Lebanon and beyond.