Improving the Treatment of Diabetes among Palestinian Refugees in Jordan

Improving the Treatment of Diabetes among Palestinian Refugees in Jordan

Like many other middle-income countries, Jordan is in the midst of an epidemiological transition characterized by an increase in non-communicable diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory infections.

These chronic diseases and cancer already account for half the annual deaths in the country. Eating habits, diet, a sedentary lifestyle and poor preventive diagnosis lead to increased risks for public health. 

According to the Jordanian Ministry of Health, which also brings together data from the health services of the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), the top 10 causes of death are metabolic and endocrine disorders, which include diabetes.

In view of this situation, the Probitas Foundation and UNRWA have joined forces to conduct a project to strengthen healthcare services for Palestinian refugees in Jordan. The aim is to improve services to prevent, detect and monitor chronic diseases, particularly diabetes, by providing new methods of diagnosis using glycated hemoglobin and by training UNRWA laboratory staff.

Through a cooperation agreement, Probitas Foundation will be collaborating with UNRWA with €50,000 over 12 months. Implementation of the project began on November 29, 2013 in two refugee camps: one near the city of Aman known as New Camp or Wihdat and the other in the north called Irbid, where 22% of the refugee population has diabetes.

One of the advantages of this new technique is that it is not necessary for patients to fast, which increases the reliability of the tests, improves efficiency and streamlines management. The result is that patients can be monitored more systematically and it is easier to identify cases in order to provide treatment based on actual health conditions.

For UNRWA, implementing this project was of "utmost importance," because the country is providing shelter to an increasing number of Palestinian refugees who had lived in Syria but are now fleeing it in search of safety in Jordan. Therefore, healthcare services covered by UNRWA in this country must redouble their efforts, which is why "the Probitas Foundation's contribution in this regard is crucial," asserted Emergency, Humanitarian Aid and Development Technician Lorena Gamito.

Project Impact

Nearly one year later, the data speak for themselves. There are currently almost 4,000 patients who have been diagnosed and treated using the glycated hemoglobin test. Gamito explained that the number of reagents purchased under the Probitas project was calculated for a population of 4,141 people.

While it is true that this was the number of people needing treatment at the time, throughout the year there have been new cases of refugees who have developed diabetes. UNRWA estimates that 4,669 patients will require treatment next year in the Wihdat camp (where 4,141 people are being treated) and 4,936 in the Irbid camp. Nevertheless, other patients are still being treated with the conventional blood sugar level testing.

UNRWA noted that the training received by laboratory staff will still benefit patients. "The knowledge gained in biochemistry makes it possible to differentiate diseases that sometimes mask cases of uncontrolled glucose and to provide better care attuned to diabetes as a prevalent disease in Jordan," said Gamito.

The project will conclude in December 2014. It has been highly regarded so far, especially by the target population. Laboratory staff is also more confident with the results obtained from these tests. "It used to be impossible to know if the person being tested had been fasting," affirmed the technician.

UNRWA knows that using this kind of system is much more accurate, but also more expensive, which could pose a problem of "sustainability." It is also aware that as the refugee population increases, so will the number of diabetes cases.

Click here  to download the video detailing the entire project

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