Israel-Hamas war: 11 diabetics held hostage in Gaza without medication

Eleven of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza have diabetes and require daily medication to manage their condition. However, despite repeated efforts by Israel to provide them with medication, this has not yet been successful. 

An organization helping the hostages’ families and the Bnei Brak-based nonprofit Friends of Medicine have issued an urgent plea to the Red Cross and the International Diabetes Federation, urging them to promptly provide life-saving medicine and medical treatment for the diabetic hostages currently held by Hamas in Gaza.

 “We cannot stand by idly,” the Israeli organizations said in their appeal. “Diabetics been kidnapped and are held hostage in Gaza and require immediate access to life-saving drugs. Without medication and urgent medical intervention, it may be too late.” 

This appeal was accompanied by a video by Or Levy, a diabetes advocate and activist, and Mai Seig, a creator and influencer in the social activism realm. You can watch it here:

“November is Diabetes Awareness Month,” states Baruch Lieberman, founder and CEO of Friends of Medicine.

“We expect the International Diabetes Federation, responsible for safeguarding the rights of approximately 537 million people worldwide living with diabetes, to take a stance and proactively assist the abductees in receiving the treatment they desperately need. With each passing moment without proper medication, their condition significantly worsens. While we would be willing to deliver the medication ourselves, international intervention is crucial for it to reach the hostages.”


What complications can be caused by untreated diabetes?

According to a 2015 report by Israel’s Health Ministry and the National Institute for Health Services and Health Policy Research, the rate of diabetes among adult Israelis reached 9.7%, and it is likely even higher today. The main challenge for diabetics lies in the complications of the disease, which can lead to severe disabilities, associated illnesses, and increased mortality risks. 

The primary aim of diabetes treatment is to maintain blood sugar levels to prevent these complications. Achieving this balance requires regular intake of medication. When this is lacking, diabetic patients’ condition deteriorates, giving rise to a multitude of symptoms and potentially resulting in death. Blindness is a common complication among untreated diabetes patients, accounting for over 10% of all cases of blindness in Israel.

Another complication affecting diabetics is nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, characterized by sensations of burning pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, delayed reflexes, and loss of mobility in the limbs. It often leads to limb amputation, a situation that can be further exacerbated by the conditions of captivity in which the abductees are held, limiting their mobility. This represents the most prevalent complication, affecting approximately 40% of individuals with diabetes. 

Limb amputations resulting from diabetes cause severe permanent functional disabilities. Diabetic foot, a condition characterized by non-healing wounds in the feet of diabetic patients due to peripheral blood vessel disease, often necessitates amputations. Lack of or inadequate treatment of a diabetic foot can accelerate the need for amputation. Additional complications arising from uncontrolled diabetes include damage to kidney function, known as diabetic nephropathy, which can progress to kidney failure requiring dialysis and transplantation. 

Up to 40% of diabetics will develop nephropathy over time, and continued imbalance of the disease may exacerbate this damage. Diabetes also significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. Certain diabetes medications are even prescribed for their preventative effects against heart attacks.

Stopping medication for an extended period places diabetics at heightened risk in this regard as well. Studies have shown that imbalanced diabetes may also increase the likelihood of developing various types of cancer, such as colon, pancreatic, liver, bladder, breast, and uterine cancer.