ISLAMABAD  - The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) - Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have called on countries to intensify efforts to prevent and control diabetes and improve access to essential care and medicines for all people with diabetes.

The World Diabetes Day raises global awareness of diabetes, its escalating rates around the world and how to prevent the illness in most cases. This year, it is being marked under the slogan "Diabetes: Protect our future".

Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, pointed to the enormous burden of diabetes in the Region saying: "Diabetes is a global challenge but is particularly important for our countries."

According to IDF's Diabetes Atlas, 6 of the 10 countries with the highest rates of prevalence of diabetes in the world are in this Region, where 10 percent of all adult deaths are due to diabetes. By 2030, the number of people with diabetes in the region is expected to increase from 32.8 million to 59.7 million.

"The explosion of diabetes in the Region is mainly due to type 2 diabetes," says Prof. Adel El Sayed, IDF Chair of the MENA Region. Once known as "adult-onset" or "noninsulin-dependent" diabetes, it is typically associated with unhealthy environments and lifestyles, and is thus, preventable.

Diabetes and its complications have a significant economic impact on individuals, families, health systems and countries. It causes suffering and hardship, and strains the Region's economies and health systems. "The diabetes burden to an individual and to society is chiefly associated with increased disability and premature mortality due to its complications, such as cardiovascular disease," explains Dr Alwan. "Diabetes complications and premature mortality are exacerbated by poor quality of care".

Evidence shows that people with pre-diabetes, whereby individuals have higher-than-normal blood glucose levels but do not meet criteria for diabetes, are also at increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. Unfortunately, diabetes and pre-diabetes commonly go undetected. Studies have demonstrated that approximately one third of people with type 2 diabetes are undiagnosed, and commonly present with complications at the time of diagnosis.

This highlights the importance of screening to detect the disease in its early stages when interventions can have a significant impact in halting disease progression.

"Prevention and control of diabetes requires concerted public health action and close collaboration among international, regional and national partners", says Dr Alwan. "WHO and the IDF have worked together for many years to support countries to implement effective measures to prevent and control diabetes," adds Prof El Sayed.