Non Communicable Diseases in Conflict

Founded: 2016
Faculty Lead: Sylvia Kehlenbrink, MD
Status: Active Program
Regions of Focus: All global regions
Research Theme: Diabetes in humanitarian crises


The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s (HHI) program on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Humanitarian Settings seeks to address the heavy burden of chronic disease in humanitarian settings and fragile states to improve humanitarian action and join international efforts to prevent, control and ultimately reduce the burden of NCDs, in particular in the world’s most vulnerable populations.


Global Alliance for Diabetes in Crises

In alignment with the Boston Declaration, the initial focus of this program is on diabetes, which now affects approximately half a billion people worldwide, of which 80% live in lower- and middle-income countries. Type 1 diabetes is arguably the most immediately life-threatening NCD, since lack of to access insulin and continuity of care in a crisis place them at acute risk of death, whilst type 2 diabetes is responsible for a vast burden of suffering and disability in low resource settings, as well as contributing substantially to cardiovascular disease related mortality. In addition, the management of diabetes requires a more complex health-system infrastructure than most other NCDs and the development of an effective diabetes program could provide a strong platform for high-quality care for other NCDs.

Given the complexity of this issue and need for large-scale intersectoral collaboration, the International Alliance for Diabetes Action (IADA) was established. IADA is a partnership of over 40 international organizations with an interest in diabetes from different sectors ranging from humanitarian organizations, intergovernmental and UN agencies, to academic institutions, civil society, philanthropic organizations and the private sector, that is developing concrete collaborative initiatives that will increase access to and quality of care for people with diabetes in humanitarian settings. The partnership leverages the unique skills, expertise and capacities of both public and private member organizations, to develop and implement bold initiatives that improve services for the most vulnerable populations who lack access to quality diabetes care.

Priority Agenda:

Members of IADA connect, share and collaborate both bilaterally and through a wide variety of events and activities which have been grouped into four workstreams, each of which has appointed a working group lead, with the following objectives:

  1. ADVOCACY: Increase the global health profile of diabetes, and consciousness of access to insulin as a humanitarian priority, through unified and strengthened advocacy 
  2. ACCESS TO MEDICINES AND DIAGNOSTICS: Improve access to insulin and other essential medicines and diagnostics for glycemic and cardiovascular risk reduction in humanitarian crises 
  3. CLINICAL AND OPERATIONAL GUIDANCE: Establish a unified set of clinical and operational guidelines for diabetes in humanitarian crises 
  4. DATA AND SURVEILLANCE: Generate an evidence base to support advocacy, through improved data and surveillance