Yemen Report

Poor diabetics at risk as
MoH runs out of insulin

Throughout July and August, Yemen’s Ministry of Health has been running out of insulin supplies due to a lack of funds, putting many diabetics in danger or great discomfort.

Teenager Ammar was sent by his diabetic mother for insulin from the Poor Patient Medical Support Programme central pharmacy at the government's Al-Gumhouri Teaching Hospital in Sanaa. He came back empty-handed and found his mother unconscious.

“Our father died last year leaving us a YR15,000 [US$75] pension per month to live on,” Ula, Ammar’s sister, told IRIN. Poor families such as this depend on the programme for free insulin, while it relies on the health ministry for its supplies.

Many diabetics in the capital have been registered with the programme for more than 10 years and receive free insulin doses. For the past month, diabetics have been queuing up for hours outside the central pharmacy in hot weather in the hope of receiving insulin shots. Some of the older sufferers have fainted in the sun.

“This is the third time the programme’s staff says there are no insulin supplies to give people. I come to the centre every second day with the hope of getting an injection, but return home emptyhanded,” said Haj Saleh Al- Faqeeh, 70, who has had diabetes for nearly 24 years. “I have sold some of my household effects to buy insulin from other pharmacies where an injection costs YR2,500 [$12.50]. I turned to selling fruits to make money for the medicine.”

Inferior insulin

Dawla Mohammed, 50, said she also resorts to buying insulin elsewhere when the central pharmacy has run out, but the quality in the market is not as good. “There are Egyptian and Syrian insulin injections that cost YR1,500 [$7.50] each, but they are not as effective as the more expensive Danish insulin,” she said.

Ridhwan al-Qadasi, deputy director of the programme, said it had not received any insulin supplies from the health ministry throughout July but had received 1,000 injections on 2 August. “This quantity takes a week to be examined by the hospital’s lab before being given to patients,” he said.

According to Al-Qadasi, there are 8,670 registered diabetics in the programme and up to 1,000 people register each year for free insulin injections.

“If there are enough supplies, we give away an average of 200 injections a day,” he said. “For the time being, we have insulin capsules that we give to less critical cases – other than those eligible for injections – by means of doctor prescriptions.”

According to World Health Organisation estimates released in 2000, there are about 327,000 diabetics in Yemen – about 1.5% of the country’s 21 million population, 42% of whom live below the poverty line. However, the Yemeni Diabetic Association (YDA) says about 6 percent of Yemen’s population – about 1.3 million people – have diabetes now. Only about 10% have insulin-dependent or type 1 diabetes, according to Sharaf al-Awdi, an endocrinologist.

Supported by the health ministry and World Diabetic Foundation, YDA was established in early 2007 as the first national diabetic centre in the country.

ate of upload: 30th Sep 2009

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