Dubai: Huge crowds joined the 10th annual ‘Beat Diabetes Walk’ at Dubai’s Zabeel Park on Friday to raise awareness and funds for diabetes.
The event, organised by retail giant Landmark Group, raised hundreds of thousands of dirhams by way of participation fees (Dh20 per adult and Dh10 per child).
More funds are being collected through donations at Landmark Group outlets throughout November, which is World Diabetes Month.
Landmark Group on Friday said over 18,000 people participated in Friday’s three-kilometre walk, bringing the total participation over the decade to more than 100,000 people. Since its inception in 2009, the initiative has also raised over $1 million (over Dh3.67 million) for diabetes care and research.
Also, more than 500,000 people have been tested for free to check blood glucose levels through the initiative. Landmark Group has engaged over 700 school and corporates towards the cause.
The walk is held each year on the Friday that is closet to World Diabetes Day (November 14). Friday is a weekend off day in the UAE and so more people are able to join community events on Fridays.
Funds for care
The funds from the walk will be donated to the event’s official charity partner Al Jalila Foundation, a Dubai-based global philanthropic organisation that will use the funds to promote care, research, and awareness for diabetes, which has no known cure.
Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to use glucose (sugar) for energy, leading to high blood glucose levels. The disorder can lead to severe complications in the kidneys, eyes, feet and cause other health problems.
In the UAE, an estimated 1.19 million people – around 12 per cent of the total population – have diabetes, Renuka Jagtiani, chairwoman and CEO of Landmark Group, told Gulf News on Friday at the walk.
“There are possibly another 500,000 people, at the least, who are diabetic but are not aware – they haven’t been diagnosed. So diabetes is, unfortunately, very prevalent here,” she added.
The prevalence of diabetes specifically among expats in the UAE is over 15.6 per cent, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
A healthy and active lifestyle, such as daily brisk walks, can offset some of the negative effects of diabetes. The Beat Diabetes Walk was also held to promote exercise.
Speaking about the initiative, Jagtiani said: “We’ve seen the community response go up over the years. We’ve seen slowly the response build. This year, we’ve had an outreach programme with the children – not just for the walk but for the overall awareness – at 48 schools of GEMS Education.
“The walk is really for us the culmination of every year’s work where we reach out to people…I would like to thank every single partner, sponsor and participant who have contributed and supported this initiative for all these years and have gathered here today to pledge their support towards healthy living.”
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, which were administered for free at the event by Dubai Health Authority.
Nepalese expat Devendra Niraula, 43, who was among the participants of the walk, said: “The more the people get tested, the more they’re aware, the more we can do to fight diabetes. I found out about the walk through our Nepalese community’s Facebook page and came here today.”
Filipina expat Adelle Gorro, corporate HR manager for Somewhere Hotels, has been participating since the first walk. She showed up with 16 of her colleagues at the event.
“We’re a group from Somewhere Hotels and it’s part of our Corporate Social Responsibility to participate in these kind of events. We have to be part of the community in Dubai to support those who are suffering from diabetes and we have to raise awareness so people will know what are causes and how to prevent diabetes,” Gorro said.
The walk was held with the support of Dubai Sports Council, Emirates Diabetes Society (EDS), Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Dubai Municipality, Roads and Transport Authority and Dubai Police.
‘Time to intervene’
Dr Abdul Razzaq Ali Al Madani, president of the EDS and the chairman of the Gulf Group for Study of Diabetes, said: “According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 38.7 million adults aged 20 to 79 years have been diagnosed and are living with diabetes in the Mena region in 2017. Additionally, about 49.1 per cent of this figure are estimated to have diabetes but are undiagnosed so far… What the Landmark Group has achieved in the last 10 years, by building awareness about diabetes and initiating blood glucose tests through the ‘Beat Diabetes initiative, is indeed commendable.”
Dr Fatheya Al Awadi, chair of DHA Diabetes Committee and Head of Endocrinology Department at Dubai Hospital, said: “It is time to intervene because we owe it to ourselves. Beating diabetes takes only a few but very important steps. It requires consistency in terms of healthy eating, adequate sleep and regular exercise, which could just be a brisk walk for 30 minutes. All these go hand-in-hand to make for better health.”