For Muslim people living with type 1 and 2 diabetes, the fasting month of Ramadan can be challenging. A campaign in Algeria is helping people with diabetes to balance their health and their religion during Ramadan.
A family is gathered in a home in Algiers, the capital of Algeria. In the living room several generations have come together, they have put on their finest clothes, they exchange loud cheers and big smiles. Music from a radio fills the room and the sound blends with the scents of green mint tea and fruit-flavoured juices. On the table are big copper trays full of delicacies such as dates stuffed with almond paste, rice pudding and honey-soaked pastries.
Malika Bouchayeb and her family are celebrating Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan observed by millions of Muslims across the world as one of the five pillars of Islam. For the next couple of days they will be pampering their taste buds while celebrating the most important feast in the Muslim calendar. And with the variety of sugary dishes, it is no wonder that Eid is also sometimes referred to as ‘Sweet Eid’.
For Malika, this Eid is special. Malika has been living with type 2 diabetes since 2005 and although the Ramadan is supposed to be a month of spirituality and celebration, it has often been a time of distress for her because she has felt torn between her religion and her diabetes. When fasting, she had no energy and had a hard time controlling her blood sugar - fearing low blood sugar levels during the day as well as soaring high blood sugar levels when indulging in heavy meals after sunset. When she did not fast, she felt guilty not least because people around her questioned why she was not doing so. But this year she feels different.
Malika Bouchayeb speaking at a diabetes awareness session
No food, no water, no medication
Diabetes, type 1 and 2, is a condition that requires careful management, blood sugar control, appropriate diet and for many also adherence to insulin. However, this is not exactly compatible with the tradition of fasting during the month of Ramadan where Muslims restrain from food, water and even medication from dawn to sunset.
Novo Nordisk was the first pharmaceutical company in Algeria to decide that something had to be done to improve the situation for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes. For six consecutive years, they have now been working to raise awareness about this issue with the ‘Diabetes and Ramadan’ campaign.
Read the full story in TBL Quarterly ‘Beyond Conflict: Putting the focus on health in the Middle East’.