They were also instrumental in introducing us to the Bolivian organisation for whom we will be raising money. They also themselves work on amazing projects around the world that already have and will go on to benefit thousands of people internationally. So if you haven't heard about them then keep reading. This article has been prepared by Elizabeth Rowley who is the founder and director of T1International, and more importantly she has grown to be a good friend. So I will leave you in her capable hands to explain what it is they do and why more people need to know about it ...
Life with diabetes is challenging for anyone with the condition. I myself have had type 1 since the age of four, and it has been a weight and stress on me, to say the last. However, this weight and struggle is vastly more intense for many people. Having spent years connecting with people from around the globe, I’ve heard various insights and stories about what it is like to live with diabetes in the places where access to medicine and treatment is a struggle. I often hear that today a diabetes diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. While that statement may be true for wealthy, insured, and reachable communities, it is simply and unfathomably not the case worldwide.
The excerpts below are from full interviews on t1international.com. They paint a picture of some of the challenges faced by people living with type 1 diabetes in places that many people do not often think about. These stories are not always happy, but they demonstrate huge opportunities for the diabetes community to rally together. T1International believes that using our collective compassion, determination, creativity and skill we can work with people living with diabetes across the globe and find solutions to these unnecessary hardships.
Having to depend on insulin has brought a financial burden on me, especially now that I am without work. It has become necessary for me to secure all the medications and materials I need on my own. Additionally, the myths associated to diabetes in Africa, mostly due to ignorance, have not helped encourage me to disclose my diabetic status to people.I have gotten several words of advice, ranging from direction to seek a spiritual cure to a suggestion to abandon my insulin injections, with no logical alternative provided. Based on my experience, I believe that much is still needed to be done in terms of diabetes education, access to insulin, care, etc. to address the problem of diabetes globally, particularly in poor countries. –Nasiru, Nigeria
The healthcare system is working badly. The medical facilities are difficult to find, because there isn’t much that has been invested in the domain. Materials and supplies to control our blood sugar, as well as visits to the physician for medical supplies, are also costly. Access to insulin for the Type 1 diabetics is another big problem because it is very expensive. Getting access to insulin is one thing, storing it is another. Non-access to insulin and supplies often results in death among the type 1 group. Sometimes type 1 diabetics who can’t afford their insulin and supply just turn to traditional medicines. They use tree bark, aloe, bitter coffee, and so on. Of course these cannot treat diabetes. –Widney, Haiti
Access to medicine is definitely different across the country, as well as diabetes care. The nurses in small towns sometimes have no education at all about diabetes. Some clinics in the small towns even lack diabetes care instruments such as glucometers and insulin, and people with diabetes have to travel to the big cities for these regular check-ups. The price of insulin and other diabetes supplies is definitely a problem that needs to be adjusted in Zimbabwe. It doesn’t make much sense to me that a person will not inject themselves for more than two days, all because they cannot afford to buy insulin. I think insulin prices must be made affordable to the general public and given for free to those that cannot afford it. In this day and age, I believe that no one must die because they cannot afford insulin.–Yemurai, Zimbabwe
Many Type 1 diabetics lose their life in the very early stage of the problem due to self-medication/alternative medicines. Rural areas are a special problem, where due to lack of health facilities, education and government initiatives, people might never even know what their child died of (death registration and investigation of reasons is rare, esp. in case of children)!–Sana, Pakistan
Living with diabetes in Ecuador is not easy. We are lacking medical specialists who work exclusively in diabetes. Diabetes education is often very poor. Even doctors who work in hospitals do not really know how to deal with a diabetes emergency.I nsulins that the government provides are the Humulin N and Humulin R. If you want to use other insulins you must pay out of pocket which becomes quite costly. The government does not provide test strips and they cost about $40 for a pack of 50 strips. In Ecuador, insulin pumps are not an option for any patient unless someone donated it or if you have a lot of money to acquire one and the supplies for it.–Dani, Ecuador
This isn’t just a problem outside of the ‘Western world’. T1International recently carried out a survey about the costs of insulin and supplies. One respondent from the USA said: ‘‘I would compromise my care if I skimped on supplies as it’s impossible to have good control without regular sugar checks…I’ve joked with family that it’d be cheaper for me to die.’’
Clearly there are a lot of obstacles for people with type 1 diabetes around the world. So what can we do about these injustices?I believe that, without a doubt, through determination and collaboration we can create a united front to raise awareness about these challenges within the diabetes community, and the rest of the world. More importantly we can work with those closest to the issues to find creative and powerful ways to address the issues.
This is what T1International is doing. We are working towards a reality where no one has to worry about affording their insulin and supplies and where no one lacks and understanding of their condition or suffers unnecessarily because they were unlucky to be born somewhere without adequate care. We believe working with communities and listening to them, rather than swooping in to ‘fix’ problems without fully understanding them is vital in leading to real and lasting change. Because of this, advocacy is at the core of what we do so that communities can have the tools to change things in a bigger way for a more lasting impact.
We will keep working with Nasiru, Widney, Yemuri, Sana, Dani and everyone else around the world who wishes to make the lives of people with diabetes in their communities better. You can read more about our work at www.t1international.com and explore our Global Type 1 Diabetes Map here.
Elizabeth Rowley is the Founder & Director of T1International. She was born in the United States and has lived with type 1 diabetes for over 20 years. Elizabeth moved to London in 2011 to complete her Master’s degree in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and has worked with diabetes, health and non-profit organisations for more than eight years. She founded T1International in 2013. Since then, the charity has been advocating for adequate access to insulin, diabetes supplies, medical care and education for all people living with type 1 diabetes by raising awareness, campaigning and collaborating with existing diabetes initiatives on the ground around the world.