Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) are emerging as a serious threat to Arab countries and are undermining development. NDCs cause 50 percent of deaths in Middle East, according to experts at the Western Asia Ministerial Meeting on NCDs. The two-day conference has brought in world leaders to revive the magnitude and trends of non-communicable diseases and injuries, with a special focus on their socio-economic impact. This regional meeting is the third in a series of consultations organized for the 2009 Review.
Even though non-communicable diseases were not included in the Millennium Development Goal, when the agenda was set and signed. However, now the trend has shifted with NCDs becoming a major threat.
“Many experts see NCD as the major health challenge to global development in the 21st century. In 2005, non-communicable diseases caused an estimated 35 million deaths, representing 60 per cent of deaths globally. Eighty per cent of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries,” said Ambassador Sylvie Lucas, President of the Economic and Social Council under UN. “So addressing non-communicable diseases, in particular cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, is essential to achieve the Millennium Development Goals(MDG).”
“NDCs cause 50 percent and injuries cause 11 percent of deaths in Middle East,” Dr Ala Alwan, Assistant Director-General, Non-communicable Disease and Mental Health, WHO. “Heart disease, stroke and diabetes alone are estimated to reduce GDP by one to five percent per year, in developing countries. Countries in this region have top places in the list of countries with high prevalence of diabetes. MDG failed to identify NDC in spite of the fact that these diseases account for 70 percent of the global mortality. Most of the morbidity and mortality caused world wide are preventable if action is taken,” he said.
“Heart disease, diabetes, cancer and injuries are responsible for 70percent of all deaths globally and 60 percent of all deaths in the Arab world. 80 percent of these non-communicable diseases and injuries are caused in low and middle income countries.
What is important is that 50 percent of these deaths are premature deaths, which often occur during the most productive years of life. And this obviously has a negative impact on productivity and socio-economic development,” Dr Alwan said
With the world facing severe financial crisis and the current threat of swine flu, the world attention is shifting away from the NCD.
“The global burden of disease is shifting. Communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, remain a major concern especially in the least developed countries of the region,” Bader Omar Al Dafa, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, UNESCWA. “However, non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, are increasingly accounting for significant morbidity and mortality in the West Asian region as in other parts of the world. Injuries, especially among youth and the working-age population, are leading to premature loss of life and disability, and in our region, road traffic deaths are among the highest in the world.”
“At the individual and family level, premature death and disability brings not only emotional pain and suffering, but can also push families below the poverty line. The sick and disabled often lose their jobs and livelihoods, and family spending on healthcare becomes the priority. At the national and regional level, premature death, disability, and the burden on health systems undermine development efforts and impact economic growth, discussions will also underscore the importance of social equity and social determinants of health and address the multi-dimensional aspects of promoting health. The poor and disadvantaged must have equal access to healthcare and be able to lead a healthy lifestyle with their families,” he said.
Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General, UNDESA said, “Globally, cardiovascular diseases alone are responsible for more premature deaths than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. These have a particularly high toll in Western Asia, where they account for 27 percent of all deaths. Non-communicable diseases and their risk factors are both closely linked to chronic poverty and contribute to poverty. If these challenges are not addressed, the World Health Organization forecasts that 25 m people will die from non-communicable diseases in the Western Asia region between 2006 and 2015.”
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