17-year-old Salman Habib sells vegetables in a small hut on a roadside in Peshawar.
He’s been diabetic since he was six.
At home, his grandmother and cousins have diabetes too.
“I need to go to washroom soon and I feel thirsty and my mouth is dry all the time. I feel numb, tired and lazy. My body also hurts all the time.”
Diabetes has affected Salman’s eyesight…
It is one of the leading causes of blindness, kidney failure, non-traumatic amputations and heart attack.
Life expectancy is shortened by approximately10 years, if it is not controlled.
Salman and his father earns around 100 US dollars a month. He has to save some of his money to buy insulin each month.
“I spend about 25 US dollars a month which I save from the pocket money that my father gives me every day. I never spent a penny on anything else except to buy insulin. Sometimes, I need a double dose of insulin when my sugar level gets high so I keep saving money.”
But today, he left his shop earlier to go to a hospital that provides free insulin.
Pakistan’s first insulin bank was established at the Hayatabad Medical Complex last month.
It gives free treatment for all diabetic patients that require insulin to stay alive.
Some 15 thousand diabetic patients come to the hospital each year and most of them are from poor families.
“People say they can’t afford the insulin and that’s the major reason why they left the insulin or not injecting the insulin,” explains Muhammad Husain is a diabetes specialist here.
“Diabetes is no longer the disease of rich people, but it’s the disease of poor people because we eat more carbohydrate. In type one diabetes, it’s a mandatory to use insulin otherwise they will die.”
In Pakistan, around 6.7 million people are diagnosed with diabetes. And it’s estimated that the number will double by 2035.
“This is a good step of the government and it should be appreciated. It is very important. We are very thankful to the government as we are the people who see how the poor people are getting serious problems because they do not have insulin.”
According to the International Diabetes Federation, one in ten of the world’s population will have diabetes by then.
Many of them in low and middle income countries… and the majority will be under 60.
48-year-old Said Umer Jan Bibi has been in the hospital ward for almost a month now. She cut one of her fingers last year but she still feels the pain.
She’s happy that she can now get free insulin to help improve her life.
Shokat Ali Yousafzai is the provincial health minister who initiated the free insulin program.
The minister claims it is the first such free health facility in Asia.
“Diabetic patients are always seen as a burden on their family. Therefore, we give top priority to diabetic patients so that we can help poor families to reduce the burden. It will also help reduce the burden of diabetic patients on public sector hospitals and will help diabetic patients to live a normal life.”
Salman Habib returns home happy after getting his free insulin at the hospital.
His mother Maimona greets him…
“I would have found a wife for him if he were not diabetic. Salman sometimes wishes he was dead to avoid the shame when I clean his clothes in the morning. Now we have hope …. at least he can get insulin for free.”