Interview with the World diabetes foundation

The World diabetes foundation has been another peculiar find along my journey to discover attempts to help diabetics in the developing world. The organization seems to be involved in a lot of projects in a lot of areas, but the web site – although clean and appealing – offers little information on first glance about what exactly the foundation does and how it does it. The foundation’s web site says that USD 94.15 million have been donated by the Foundation to fund projects ”on diabetes awareness, education and capacity building at local, regional and global levels.” Now that’s a lot of dough! Have a read of this interview with one of the staff members at the organization which gives a general overview of the foundation then take a look for yourself at all of the various projects to see more specifically what they do and what you think of each project and outcome.

How was The World Diabetes Foundation started and why?

The WDF was set up by Novo Nordisk A/S as an independent trust in the area of access to diabetes care in the developing countries in 2002.

How does the organization work?

We fund projects through partners who implement them in the area of diabetes prevention and care. We have eight strategic focus areas:

  • access to care
  • diabetes and foot care
  • diabetes and eye care
  • Tuberculosis and diabetes
  • mothers and diabetes
  • children with diabetes
  • primary prevention
  • advocacy

In what ways has the WDF grown since its foundation in 2002? 

We have grown in size; from 3 to 13 staff members and project portfolio has reached 317 projects in more than 100 developing countries.

The WDF has funded 317 projects to date. Can you tell me a bit about these projects, the countries you work in, and any organizations you partner with?

Most of our project partners are local ministries of health, health care professional organisations, diabetes associations and large NGOs who have the capacity and knowledge to implement programmes in the area of health care and speciality in diabetes care.

What does it take to keep the WDF running and are there plans to grow it further/reach more people?

It takes a lot of professional skills in development assistance, programme management and financial skills to supervise each project. Each project coordinator has a specific project and country specific portfolio they need to nurture and also conduct field visits in order to make sure that the project partners report timely on the agreed milestone and contractual obligations. Currently there are no plans to hire more staff but we will keep funding projects as part of our mandate and demand driven need.

What do you think is the most important struggle type 1 diabetics in the developing world that we need to be aware of?

I think the most important aspect is awareness of the disease and that in many developing countries there are no capacity and knowledge to detect, monitor and treat type 1 diabetes as such. So many people die of type 1 diabetes without getting diagnosed or receiving proper treatment. Another is the lack of diabetes guidelines and policies and also lack of action to support health care capacity towards diabetes prevention and care.

What does the recent news of the Nigerian government ordering free treatment for diabetic children mean to the WDF? Do you think this is an indication that other African countries may take diabetes more seriously?

It’s a major milestone for the government and mostly the people affected by diabetes in Nigeria and gives them great hope for a better future. Our hope is that all governments should provide sustainable access to not only treatment but also prevention of diabetes. We hope this can inspire other politicians and governments to follow in the footsteps of Nigeria as a role model.

What kind of progress have you seen (and do you hope to see in the future) for type 1 diabetics in the developing world who do not have access to insulin, supplies, or education?

We have seen major policy changes and progress across many developing countries. In countries like Sudan, Indonesia, Kenya and Tanzania, access to diabetes care has improved significantly and is providing much needed care for people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The availability, accessibility and compliance have improved and diabetes education at the community level has helped to elevate the awareness of diabetes at the local level.

In what ways do you think we can get the global community as a whole to be aware and involved in the struggles of people living with diabetes in the developing world?

We can mobilise and sensitise the local communities at the country level and engage in a dialogue and debate with the politicians and by sharing of best practices of investing in access to the prevention and diabetes care at the global level.  It is a long process, but looking back at our ten years of existence we have proven that it can be done with the recent policy changes and resolutions at the UN.

Are there specific stories of inspiration and hope that people can read about to learn about the struggles faced by the people the WDF helps?

The media plays a crucial and important role in bringing the news and awareness about diabetes to the external stakeholders. It can also serve as the advocate and voice of the millions of patients who are suffering from this disease. On the News section of the page, you can access stories and use social media as a platform to share stories. We also have our film and news channel on YouTube at where all the good stories can be shared.

How can people help or get involved in this initiative and make a difference to this cause?

At the WDF, we only fund projects through professional organisations and stakeholders in the area of access to health. However, we have our global awareness platform at were we are encouraging everyone to walk on World Diabetes Day, which can help raise awareness of diabetes on a global scale.


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