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Diabetes among refugees in the Middle East

Apr 15, 2019

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established in 1949 and has delivered health care services for over 65 years. The epidemiological transition in disease burden is changing the context in which UNRWA’s health programme operates and poses new challenges that require new ways of providing health services. Hypertension and diabetes are two major health problems for Palestine refugees.

UNRWA has been providing diabetes and hypertension care since 1992 in its primary health care centres. Recently and through a structured process of care delivery, the UNRWA health system is making significant strides in addressing diabetes and hypertension and consequently the nine voluntary global targets included in the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013–2020.

Given that most developing countries either have no or only rudimentary services for diabetes and hypertension at the primary care level and may face similar resource and capacity constraints, UNRWA’s efforts can serve as a model and inspiration to set up similar initiatives. 

In this discussion, members are asked:

  1. To share experiences and best practices concerning diabetes prevention and management among refugees.
  2. How to establish a joint coordination mechanism between different key organizations providing diabetes care to refugees.
  3. What are the tools required for the provision of diabetes care during emergencies and refugee situations; including medicines, supplies and medical care devices?
  4. How to establish working groups with relevant key organizations for refugees in  host countries, to ensure the implementation of action plans and enhance the sustainability of quality diabetes care for refugees. 

Recommended readings:


Information about the discussion leader

Dr. Yousef Shahin is a medical doctor with more than 24 years of experience, 10 years of which as manager in Disease Prevention and Control Programmes. After graduating in Medicine and General Surgery at Zaprozyha Medical University in the Former USSR in 1985, he joined Jordan University of Science and Technology where he completed his Masters degree in Public Health in 1995 majoring in Epidemiology and Occupational Health. He is currently managing the NCD programme in UNRWA, aiming to improve early detection and better management with focus on healthy life style modifications and combating risk factors. Dr Shahin joined the World Health Organization from July-December 2011 as Technical Officer on Non-Communicable Diseases. He has published in recognized medical journals targeting non-communicable diseases focusing on diabetes care. His publications can be accessed at

This is the fourth in a series of discussions introducing some of the programme sessions that will be featured at the IDF Congress 2019 in Busan, Korea, 2-6 December 2019.