According to the UN special envoy for Syria, an estimated 400,000 people have been killed in the past five years of civil war. There have been thousands of deaths alone among those trying to cross the Mediterranean to safety.
War and violence damages people’s lives in unthinkable ways. It takes away basic things like shelter, food and other necessities. What if, on top of the horrors of war, you had to find a way to treat and manage your type 1 diabetes amidst the crisis?
Last year, an 11-year-old Syrian girl died after having her insulin thrown overboard a raft by smugglers, while pioneers such as Ernest Sterzer and Eva Saxl survived World War II despite having limited insulin.
As someone with type 1 diabetes myself, I can only imagine the stress, anxiety, and unwell state I would be in without regular access to insulin, syringes, or test strips. We must remember that this is reality for many people.
T1International, a diabetes advocacy charity, has partners at the Syrian American Medical Society that have told us that there are thousands of people in Syria in dire need of insulin. These people are just like us. They all have diabetes and they all have stories – like the man that reached out to us who has a son with type 1 diabetes. He wishes to remain anonymous for safety reasons, but his words speak volumes.
He said: ‘’Now, after the crisis, most hospitals and dispensaries have been destroyed, their instruments stolen. Most doctors have escaped outside of the country and we have 12 million refugees, which means half of Syrians are now out of the country. Access to the remaining hospitals carries a great danger and safe places are no longer safe. At this point, if someone is able to find work at all, the income is not more than $100 per month, but diabetes supplies and insulin cost at least $150 per month.
“The economic situation of the people who remain has gotten so bad that they cannot afford to eat and drink, so how will anyone be able to buy diabetes supplies?’’
Another woman with type 1 diabetes in Syria works at the only functioning pharmacy in her area. She drives roughly four hours every month to get the insulin for herself and other patients. They can only get insulin and some supplies one month at a time, so they live in fear that there will not be anything the next month, or that violence will get in the way of access to insulin.
‘’One day, the power went off due to the shell bombing in Deir Azzour, and the city became under very strict siege. It was time for me to travel to get the insulin supplies, but I could not leave because it was so risky. A week later the road became safer, but due to the lack of insulin I was very sick so I could not travel to get the supply, but a friend of mine did,” she said.
“Unfortunately for some, this happened too late. During the week without the insulin supplies a seven year old boy died due to severe DKA. However, we were able to save a 14-year-old girl’s life with the insulin my friend brought back. I wish we had had enough supplies for an extra week to save that boy’s life.”
Survival in Syria is not easy and the war has forced many people living with diabetes to flee to neighbouring countries, like Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. These countries do not have public health care systems that will cover the costs of diabetes care so humanitarian organisations are the only way that people can be lucky enough to avoid needless suffering and death.
”For us to secure the most basic necessities of life is becoming extremely difficult with a small child suffering from diabetes. I tried to run away towards Europe, but did not have the courage to risk taking my family in the sea after I saw pictures of children who drowned in the sea. We are trying to keep alive, but of all things I wish that my son could live like other children.”
The above quotes are just a sample of thousands of harrowing stories of Syrians affected by diabetes and war. June 20th is World Refugee Day, so T1International is speaking out to make sure that people with type 1 diabetes in crisis are not forgotten. We have launched our ‘Insulin for Syrians’ appeal and you can help ensure these families get their life-saving insulin and diabetes supplies by making a donation now.
T1International hopes to raise at least £1,000 to help address these urgent needs. If we meet our goal between now and the end of July, Beyond Type 1 has agreed to double your donation.
We all know that there is no life without insulin. Our brothers and sisters with diabetes need our support urgently. If you are able, please give generously and save lives, because the cost of war and plus the cost of diabetes is almost too painful to comprehend.