A Cold Chain Insulin Delivery Helps Diabetics Across Lebanon
Medical aid fills vital role as Beirut sees shortages of medicines.
In response to the dwindling supply of diabetes-related medical supplies in Lebanon, Anera recently delivered much-needed treatments to diabetes patients.
Thanks to a donation from the nonprofit Direct Relief, Anera distributed insulin to healthcare facilities across Lebanon that have the capacity to handle cold chain medicines. Two of these local partners are Rafik Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) and Geitawi Hospital. Nicolas is a diabetes patient at Geitawi Hospital in Beirut. He says,
"My son has been trying to find insulin for me, but it’s been difficult. I recently started taking the insulin Anera provided and I am looking forward to feeling better.”
Dr. Akram Shtay heads the endocrinology unit at RHUH. “We were the first hospital to treat COVID-19,” he tells us. “We have pressures coming down on us from all sides. Our patient load is high and the financial crisis weighs heavily on us.”
“The medical donations we receive, such as the insulin [provided by Anera and Direct Relief], play a major role in supporting RHUH so that we can continue doing our job.”
Diabetes is a serious problem in Lebanon, affecting an alarming 26% of the total population and 13% of the adult population. This rate is far higher than the 9% prevalence of diabetes in the global population. This makes the lack of accessible and affordable insulin all the more important. Yet with the Lebanese currency destabilization and financial crisis, many medical supplies have become unavailable or too expensive. Shtay says,
"The shortage of medication in the country has made RHUH dependent on aid organizations. Anera has provided an important part of the diabetic treatment by delivering several types of insulin.”
A recent report by L’Orient Le Jour tracked the deteriorating conditions of Lebanese public health care, focusing on diabetes and diabetes-related medications. It showed the challenges in supplying and acquiring medication, the use of alternative medicine, and the overall fear and insecurity of diabetes patients. Public and private hospitals both have suffered from shortages of diabetes-related medicines and supplies. People with diabetes have also been unable to find medicine in local pharmacies.
Many people who live with diabetes are active and otherwise healthy. Nicolas says he plays sports regularly, in addition to tending to his shop every day. Reliable access to insulin is crucial for allowing diabetes patients like Nicolas to live and thrive.
“When the blast happened in Beirut, I was working in my store and the walls collapsed on me. Since then I have felt weak. The trauma of the event has kept me feeling frail.”
The underlying problem is that most medications in Lebanon are imported and purchased with foreign currencies. This way of doing things has recently become almost impossible to sustain as the nation’s currency reserves are rapidly dwindling. Although the government is still subsidizing some medications like insulin pens, pharmacies have begun to run out.
“Most of our patients here are from the middle and lower economic classes,” Shtay says. “The medical treatments we are providing are critical to these patients – they depend on it.”