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It is estimated that close to four million deaths can be attributed to diabetes–related causes each year. The prevalence of diabetes is increasing all over the world and is hitting lower income countries and communities hardest.

The difficulties faced by disadvantaged and underserved communities in accessing diabetes care are exacerbated in times of emergency. The geographical context may vary but the experiences of disadvantaged people are depressingly similar across the globe. Factors such as lack of food, shelter, electricity and fresh water, stress, and loss of medication make it difficult for people with diabetes to manage their condition, putting their lives at greater risk than the general population.

During the past twenty years, over six thousand natural disasters have adversely affected the lives of more than five million people around the world, resulting in over two million deaths. The immediate concern following a disaster is admittedly that of infectious disease. However, the tsunami in South–East Asia in 2005 and Hurricane Katrina in 2006 highlighted the need to address chronic disease as well. With medical facilities destroyed and many residents displaced, much of the care post–disaster concerned people with chronic diseases such as diabetes. Many people requiring insulin did not receive it.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has developed the TIDES (Towards Improvement in Diabetes in Emergency Settings) programme to address this situation. The primary objective of TIDES is to work with other health organizations such as the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Medecins sans Frontieres to reduce morbidity and mortality in people with diabetes in the aftermath of a natural or man–made disaster, through awareness, engagement and education. A proposed strategy is to ensure that emergency response agencies worldwide include an adequate action plan for people with diabetes in emergency settings.

Other aims of the project include ensuring that

A meeting is planned, co–hosted by IDF and the World Health Organization, with the world’s most important first responder organizations to discuss prioritizing the management of diabetes and its complications during disasters and emergencies.

Source: International Diabetes Federation