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CARE, Abbott, the Abbott Fund to address noncommunicable diseases in Marawi

By BITOON A RANAO
June 12, 2019
The global humanitarian organization CARE, the health technology company Abbott and its foundation the Abbott Fund recently announced a three-year, $1 million program to screen, diagnose, prevent and manage noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease for people who remain displaced two years after the Marawi siege. The partnership in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, Philippines is among the first of its kind to address NCDs in areas affected by disasters, conflict, and other humanitarian challenges. 
Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases often don’t receive enough attention in humanitarian settings, even though nearly three out of four deaths globally are caused by NCDs. Diabetes, hypertension, and obesity also are the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, according to the Integrated Public Health Office in Lanao del Sur. A significant percentage of displaced people continue to be exposed to NCD risks such as unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. The Department of Health reports that one out of every three Filipinos dies before the age of 70 from NCDs. 
The new health project will launch on June 13 in Marawi City with a forum engaging key local stakeholders. The goal of the pilot project is to create a model for the effective management of NCDs in humanitarian settings, with a focus on management, pro-active follow up, and prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (i.e., screening and identifying pre-diabetics and pre-hypertensives); strengthening the health system to successfully respond to NCDs; and community mobilization. 
“Addressing noncommunicable diseases remains a neglected area in humanitarian response,” said CARE President and CEO Michelle Nunn. “CARE is well-positioned to fill the void, and we are confident that our partnership with Abbott and the Abbott Fund will produce key learnings for the global emergency response and development community. We expect the engagement of women, in particular, will be critical to the project’s success.” 
“Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other noncommunicable diseases pose an immense challenge in the Philippines and around the world. But nowhere is this need more acute than for people who have been uprooted from their homes and communities due to humanitarian crises,” said Melissa Brotz, vice president, Global Marketing and External Affairs, Abbott, and president, the Abbott Fund. “Through our partnership with CARE, we hope to improve the lives of people affected by NCDs in Marawi, and to establish a new model for the effective prevention and care of chronic diseases in these challenging settings globally.” 
The Marawi siege was a five-month-long armed conflict in 2017 between government forces and a militant group that forced more than 350,000 residents of Marawi and neighboring towns to flee and seek refuge in evacuation centers. 
Two years later, over 66,000 people remain displaced, with some living in eight evacuation sites in Marawi and neighboring towns and others living in transitory shelters or with relatives. Rebuilding work has yet to formally start in “Ground Zero,” the 250-hectare former battle area and the most devastated part of the city. 
“The unfavorable conditions of the displaced families living in evacuation centers and transitory shelters remain a primary concern. While living in tents for two years, they have had to suffer under the hot sun and, when rain arrives, heavy downpours. Women and children in this kind of setting are extremely vulnerable to stress and NCDs especially those who have existing health issues. They also struggle to access testing and preventive care support,” said David Gazashvili, CARE Country Director in the Philippines. 
Program outreach will include screening to identify people with NCDs and those at risk of developing NCDs. Nurses and other healthcare providers will be trained to lead “NCD Club” support groups to advance disease prevention and management by engaging IDPs in group exercise, lifestyle changes and compliance with ongoing treatment. The program also will focus on expanding access to needed clinical care either within or outside the camps, and strengthening the ability of local healthcare systems to manage NCDs. In addition, an advocacy campaign will raise awareness and educate on the prevention and control of NCDs from the community to the national government level. 
The program has a strong focus on women as leaders through community engagement, screenings, referral, counseling, follow-up, monitoring, data collection, and analysis. This includes identifying and engaging women at evacuation centers and shelters who may have expertise in healthcare or related fields to lead teams that map activities and run NCD Club support groups. 
CARE will facilitate conversations among key stakeholders including local government units, health offices, academic institutions, the private sector and leaders of the displaced population with an aim to integrate prevention and control of such diseases into policies across all government departments and levels. 
To support the partnership, the Abbott Fund is providing more than $1 million in funding over three years. Abbott also is providing diabetes monitors and test strips to help advance efforts to address diabetes in affected communities. 
“There is a need to raise awareness on the prevention and control of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. We are committed to collaborating with various stakeholders to address these needs and support the displaced people two years after the siege,” said Gazashvili. (With a story from Dennis Amata/RSP)

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