The Beat Diabetes Walk at Zabeel Park, Dubai. Image Credit: Abdel-Krim Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: More than 17,000 residents joined the Beat Diabetes walk to raise awareness and funds for diabetes in Dubai’s Zabeel Park on Friday.

The annual walk organised by the Landmark Group raised almost Dh350,000 by way of participation fees alone. More funds are being collected through donations at the retail giant’s 550 UAE outlets through November, which is World Diabetes Month.

The funds will be donated to Al Jalila Foundation, a Dubai-based global philanthropic organisation that will use the funds to promote education and research for developing a cure for diabetes.

In the UAE, around 19 per cent of adults have diabetes, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) reckons. High blood sugar levels due to diabetes can cause damage to multiple organs. There is no known cure for diabetes, but a healthy lifestyle can offset its impact.

The Beat Diabetes walk, which saw participants marching down three kilometres in and around Zabeel Park, was also held to promote exercise.

Renuka Jagtiani, Vice-Chairperson, Landmark Group, said building awareness about diabetes was needed because “more than half the people who have diabetes don’t know that they have it.”

The Beat Diabetes initiative has spread to seven countries, she added. “On account of our efforts, the [IDF] made Landmark Group its first retail corporate support partner.”

Among the participants was 12-year-old Maleka Mansour, a Yemeni girl with Type 1 diabetes. She was identified as one of the Beat Diabetes Blue Champions for 2015.

“I enjoyed the walk today, I’m a very active person. I had some fruit in the morning so I knew my blood sugar level wasn’t going to go down. Diabetes is about right management. You can still lead a fun, active life if you do that,” she said.

Besides the walk, the event also featured fitness challenges, sports activities and physical games.

Visitors to Zabeel Park were briefed on diabetes management, including the importance of regular blood-glucose tests.

This year, the initiative teamed up with visual artist Gary Yong to create a social art installation based on the Beat Diabetes theme at Gate 3 of Zabeel Park. The art installation drew a large number of participants eager to take selfies and photos to share on social media.