Project Mount Goverla
On a clear day in July, 12 children with diabetes climbed Goverla, the highest mountain in Ukraine at 2,061 metres. Their goal? To prove to everyone, especially themselves, that their disease won’t stop them from conquering new challenges. Our colleagues walked beside them to show their support for our young climbers as they made their way to the summit.
Diabetes in Ukraine
There are nearly 1.3 million people officially registered with diabetes in Ukraine. However, the real number of people living with the disease is three times higher, as people are often unaware of their condition. Over the past 10-15 years the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in Ukraine has doubled with the highest incidence among the urban population, in line with worldwide trends.
Diabetes is a complex disease that develops because of a shortage of the pancreatic hormone – insulin and can be divided into two main types. Type 1 (insulin-dependent) is an autoimmune disease when the human immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the pancreatic cells that produce insulin and most often affects children and young people. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the amount of insulin produced in the body is "insufficient".
There are about 200,000 type 1 or insulin dependent patients in Ukraine, according to the Ministry of Health in 2016 and almost 1.1 million people with type 2 diabetes officially registered in Ukraine.
Diagnosis: a key step
In Ukraine all adults aged 45 and older are advised to check their blood glucose levels at least once a year, because people can live with type 2 for a long time without symptoms. Unfortunately, most cases of type 2 are diagnosed in Ukraine when patients have developed other complications. At the point of a type 2 diagnosis, 26% of patients have neuropathy, a nerve malfunction; 17% suffer from retinopathy, a diabetes complication that affects eyes; and 7% experience kidney diseases1.
How is diabetes perceived in Ukraine?
Awareness about diabetes in Ukrainian society is low. Children with diabetes are not always accepted in kindergartens or sports clubs, because people are unwilling to take responsibility for them. As a result, parents, especially mothers, have to give up their job in order to take care of them.
The state does not provide systematic psychological assistance to these families but hospitals do run classes to teach patients how to manage their disease, regarding blood glucose, nutrition, exercise, medication, goal setting and stress management. However, families living in villages or small towns find themselves isolated and can experience deep psychological trauma.
Sanofi Ukraine's commitment
To increase awareness about the disease and support patients, Sanofi Ukraine runs a large-scale social program, "Act for Diabetes", that includes activities such as teaching, providing support in daily life, improving the role of healthcare professionals and providing a forum to share personal experiences. Its key project, the National Drawing Contest for children with diabetes, has been running since 2010 in partnership with the Endocrinology Association of Ukraine, and this year 12 teenagers with diabetes conquered the highest mountain in Ukraine, Goverla, which stands at 2,061 metre. Their parents reported the positive impact this adventure had on their children’s wellbeing and how it helped them better manage the disease.
Sanofi Ukraine’s biggest priority is to unite people with diabetes, to help them engage with others and empower them to change their lives.