Marawi City, Lanao del Sur - Rocaya Tabao, a diabetic patient, has her bloodwork done in Amai Pacpac Medical Center in Marawi City.
Feature story |

New findings: a gamechanger for diabetes care in refugee settings

2 min
Photograph by Veejay Villafranca
Marawi City, Lanao del Sur - Rocaya Tabao, a diabetic patient, has her bloodwork done in Amai Pacpac Medical Center in Marawi City. Photograph by Veejay Villafranca

Insulin can be stored out of refrigeration even in hot settings!

Seeking to explore ways to improve diabetes care in resource-limited settings, a joint study by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and University of Geneva published in PLOS ONE has demonstrated that a range of insulins can be stored at temperatures between 25 to 37°C for a four-week period of use. This study confirms the possibility for people living with diabetes in similar temperature conditions to be able to use insulin, for a period of up to four weeks, even in the absence of refrigeration.

Diabetes is a chronic, progressive disease that can be controlled with effective treatment. However, in many countries, people living with diabetes are not getting the treatment they need to stay healthy and alive. It is a shameful fact that only about half of people requiring insulin have access to it. Access to insulin has been largely prevented due to high prices, challenging storage requirements and complex treatment protocols. 

Strict storage recommendations for insulin are difficult to follow in tropical regions and even more challenging in conflict and humanitarian emergency settings, adding an extra burden for people managing their diabetes. Storage recommendations for insulin require refrigeration until its expiry date, or until it is opened for use. Once in use, the storage recommendations on the label of most human insulins are below 25°C for 42 days. In many settings, this results in people being asked to travel to the health clinic for injections and monitoring, at least twice a day, for life. 

Insulin shots inside a refrigerator. For people who do not have refrigerators, MSF provides pots in which insulin can be stored. Photographs by Jinane Saad.

MSF works in over 70 countries worldwide and in most of these settings, insulin is often not available in public health facilities or private pharmacies. MSF has been engaged in providing treatment for diabetes care in multiple projects across a number of countries (including Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh) to people living in resource-limited and humanitarian settings.