Abu Dhabi: Thousands of people took part in a five kilometre walk down the corniche to highlight their concern and eagerness to fight the UAE's most widespread disease - diabetes.

The UAE is pegged as having the world's second highest prevalence of diabetes, affecting 19.6 per cent of the population, and the number continues to grow.

Children, teenagers, couples, families and mothers pushing prams were witnessed holding blue and white balloons and signs with 'fight diabetes' messages while taking part in yesterday afternoon's diabetes walkathon, which started a little after 3.00pm.

Gulf News joined the crowd and asked some of the participants how important the capital city's second annual diabetes walkathon is for them, and how the condition has affected their lives.

George Kazantzidis, 34, a Marketing Manager from Germany, has a grandmother who suffers from diabetes. Even though he is athletic and takes part in tennis and swimming twice a week, he felt taking part in the event was crucial.

"I'm walking for my diabetic grandmother today and feel its important to take part in causable events like diabetes," he told Gulf News. "We do very little sports in the UAE and its about time we encourage people to live healthier lives; this is my first time, but I plan to keep walking for further diabetes causes."

An American walker, Alex Saenz, 32, who works in IT, jogs three times a week because he has a history of diabetes in his family.

"I'm walking for my mother today," said Saenz. "She has had diabetes for 30 years and is not in a very good condition. She had diabetes type 1 in her 20s then it developed to diabetes type 2. I watched her health deteriorating, her movement became less and her blood sugar level is about 400. I definitely encourage others not to let themselves reach that stage and to prevent the condition early," he added.

A German tourism representative, Renata Plant, 41, and her American husband Thomas, an Aircraft Engineer, 46, were also taking part in the walkathon.

"This is my second time to take part in the diabetes walkathon and I will continue to take part," said Renata. "My cousin and my grandmother have diabetes type 1, so since it runs in the family. I'm very careful about my fitness level and walk twice a week. I'm glad all these people showed up today and are taking part in this important event, that's the perfect way to start solving a problem, uniting and joining hands."

Her husband Thomas agreed with Renata and, although he has no history of diabetes in his own family, was encouraged to join his wife and walk. "I wouldn't normally walk, but the cause behind this event encouraged me to take part today," he said.

According to the organisers of the event, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), 7,500 people took part in the event, up from 5,000 people last year.

"We see this year a clear indication of the community uniting to fight off the disease, which is a great sign," said Dr Maha Taysir Barakat, Medical and Research Director and Consultant Endocrinologist at ICLDC.