Poverty increases diabetes risk for Gazan children

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Inability of Gazan parents to buy their children diabetes test strips leading them to administer inaccurate insulin doses

By Ali Abo-Rezeg

GAZA, Palestine  – Many Gazan parents are unable to buy diabetes test strips for their sick children due to poverty. 

After being injected with a dose of insulin in her left upper arm, Nariman al-Jaro, 12, felt light-headed and almost lost consciousness because of a drop in her blood sugar levels, which she is unable to measure.

She said that she did not conduct the sugar test earlier because her diabetes testing strips have run out and her father is unable to buy more.

Al-Jaro’s younger brother, Mohammed, nine, also suffers from the same disease and needs to conduct the test more often than his sister.

Those suffering from type 1 diabetes need to conduct daily tests to check their blood sugar levels at least four times a day, before taking the appropriate doses of insulin.

Al-Jaro’s works earns $300 per month and is unable to provide the necessary medicines for his two sick children, according to Mahdiyyah al-Jaro, the children’s mother.

Mahdiyyah, 42, said that the monthly cost of both children’s strips is around $550, as well as vitamins and other medicines they need to take.

The insulin pens she gets from the ministry every month are not suitable for her children due to the large size of the needle, she said.

“I become very tired when I go to school. One time I lost consciousness and my uncle saw me and took me home,” the younger child, Mohammed, said.  

Since 2007, Israel has imposed a strict naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. The 1.8 million inhabitants of the besieged enclave have been deprived of many of their most basic needs under the near decade-long blockade.

Awni Chouikh, a founding member of the Association of Haifa that cares for children suffering from diabetes in the Gaza Strip, says the situation is “deteriorating.”

Parents are unable to provide the diabetes testing strips for their children, and there is a scarcity of high-quality insulin injections, according to Chouikh.

The association estimates that the number of children who have diabetes in the Gaza Strip is around 1,500 children, but they only offer their services for 200 children because of their limited resources.

Jamil Bahnasawi, head of the Department of Endocrine Glands at the Abdel-Aziz Rantisi Specialist Children’s Hospital, said that the patients face “a real danger due to the lack of insulin and strips.”

“The inability of most people to buy these strips ​​because of poverty poses a risk to the lives of their children,” Bahnasawi told Anadolu Agency. “They give insulin doses to their children without conducting the required pre-test.”

A dose of insulin without conducting a test may lead the patient into a coma.

According to Bahnasawi, 150 children with diabetes, aged between two months and 12, have registered in his department’s lists.

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