KIDS with a mission: Fighting diabetes

February 19, 2013 - 2:34:48 am

Children taking part in various activities organised as part of the Al Bawasil camp at Aspire Zone. ( PICS: SALIM MATRAMKOT)

By Isabel Oealle 

Diabetes forces children to remember and follow difficult rules and lead a certain way of life from a very young age. This is the case with the 60 children attending the 13th edition of the Al Bawasil camp at Doha’s Aspire Zone. 

These little ones, aged seven to 11 years, have travelled to Doha leaving behind their families in several countries: Morocco, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, Jamaica, Sudan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, besides Qatar.

Ammad, from Egypt, is 10 years old and very happy to participate in the week-long camp and meet other kids with diabetes. His caretaker, Mahmoud from Palestine, who is in charge of 10 children, says: “This is very good for  them, even though they all take care of themselves from a very young age.”

On his part, Nasser, a nine-year-old from Qatar, said: “We have to be especially careful with what we eat. Today we learned about carbohydrates and other food we should and should not eat.” It’s the second time he is taking part in the camp, because “it’s very nice.”

During their stay here, the attendees sleep in an Aspire Zone dormitory and participate in a variety of activities that begin right after breakfast and conclude just before dinner. The events include outings to Katara Cultural Village.

The participants, divided into groups named after local flowers, take part in workshops on controlling diabetes, exercise, practice yoga, aerobics or taekwondo, and learn about a healthy diet and how to socialise.

Noura Al Ibrahim, the camp manager, considers it a big achievement for the camp to have had 13 editions. “We try every year to teach these brave kids how to follow a healthy lifestyle to live safely with their diabetes, because it is their right to learn,” she said.

Al Bawasil, she said, was known as one of the best camps for children with diabetes, with a total of 18 supervisors watching over the kids during their stay. 

Participants from all regions represented in IDF were to take part this year. However, some last-minute problems delayed the participation of children from Europe, South America and South East Asia until 2014.

According to the IDF, good diabetes control means keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.

 This can be achieved by regular physical activity, with the goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week.

Controlling body weight is also a must, given that weight loss reduces insulin resistance, blood glucose and high lipid levels in the short term, and reduces blood pressure. Ultimately, it is important to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Obvious as it may seem, healthy eating is important as well. Avoiding foods high in sugar and saturated fats is essential.

All this should be paired with monitoring for complications. The IDF says monitoring and early detection of complications is an essential part of good diabetes care. This includes regular foot and eye check-ups, monitoring blood pressure and blood glucose levels, and assessing risks for cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that arises when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. For those who don’t know, insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that enables cells to take in glucose from the blood and use it as an energy source.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) explains that failure to produce insulin, or of insulin to act properly, or both, leads to raised sugar levels in the blood. This is associated with long-term damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.

Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called insulin-dependent, immune-mediated or juvenile-onset diabetes. It is caused by an auto-immune reaction where the body’s defence system attacks the insulin-producing cells. The reason behind this is not fully understood, but it affects approximately 400 children in Qatar.

People with type 1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin. The disease can affect people of any age, but usually occurs in children or young adults. People with this form of diabetes need injections of insulin every day in order to control the levels of glucose in their blood. Consequences are appalling if people with type 1 diabetes do not have access to insulin.

The prevalence of diabetes is growing worldwide. The incidence of type 1 diabetes is going up by three percent every year; in Qatar, it grows yearly by 23 percent for every 100,000 children. The average incidence of diabetes in the country, as well as in the rest of the Middle East, is high.

The Penisnula