My first knowledge of the diabetic group of Maratane came from Ana, the UN protection officer. I am a Type 1 diabetic myself was looking for a place to keep my insulin cold while working in Nampula. Ana offered the UNHCR fridge and said that they had recently acquired their first major supply of insulin for a couple of refugees but they had some questions about its proper use. From there, I discovered a multi-faceted group of individuals who – like me – are tirelessly seeking new methods of living healthily with diabetes. The environment of a refugee camp in Mozambique, where high carbohydrate food is rationed out monthly and where adequate medical supplies are near impossible to rely upon even outside the camp, makes their endeavor a bit more unpredictable than my own. While many of the group are attempting to use their chronic illness as a means to a better future (i.e. resettlement to another country) most simply desire the most comfortable life available within the confines of their situation.

I'll say that after showing this video to the community, they were happy and impressed but urged me to make a full length movie detailing the specifics of their struggles. While I would love to do that, I don't think it would reach as wide an audience as it will remaining a short, discussion-starter and groups like the American Diabetes Association and others have already picked up on it, which I think is good. Among the un-illustrated problems made clear by the refugees within the camp and Nampula, medical facilities for diabetics could be greatly improved upon. The principal complaints had to do with transportation to and from the central hospital and food. The medical facility technically has four cars but one has been in the shop for 2 years, 2 are MIA and another is used as the personal car of a camp administrator. The refugees could sell the food they get and buy healthier products, but the problem is that many of them have multiple kids to feed and the only way to afford to fill all those bellies is by keep the carb heavy starchy corn flour and beans handed out monthly. There is a special distribution for the old and sickly, which diabetics benefit from, but it is essentially just more of the same.

One major fault I noticed that the diabetics did not complain about was a lack of education on diabetes. Trials by fire had been the primary teacher for the group. They knew not to eat lots of white rice without taking their pills and insulin because it sent them to the hospital after a while. They realized the same things after eating white bread, cassava, corn flour, etc all to the detriment of their long term health. Just by being a diabetic who had been diagnosed in the US, where everyone goes through some type of training while in the hospital, it seems, I felt like an expert on the disease. This is a problem that could be remedied through the medical clinic. A second idea is an exercise program. Before I arrived, there was no clear understanding that exercise boosted insulin sensitivity and unfortunately many of them remained idle, as do most folks living in Maratane.

My own amateur analysis, however, left me reasonably impressed at their level of health. I believed them when they told me that resettlement was the only option for their health and safety, but it was also clear that they had long since developed survival methods for life in the camp. This is what interested me most, because most of them will not be resettled, and their pro-active mentalities signified that they had come to terms with their long-term existence in the camp in some way. Through diabetes they had a lens with which to face their reality. It made me think of the millions of people living with diabetes around the world who still live in semi or complete denial of their illness. I wanted to connect them with the community of Maratane and that’s how the video came about.
So within their story I found some commonalities of being refugee in a camp and living with a chronic illness. In both situations, a person faces an undeniable choice: to wallow in self-sorrow and misery or to accept reality and to embrace or seek out those opportunities that life still makes available. I see this choice being made every day in my visits to the camp and more and more, I see it being made by everyone around me as I go about my non-camp life and as I think about my life back home. The story of the diabetic refugees is perhaps one extreme example but it is in these extremes that I am most able to see illustrated the lessons that apply to all our lives, regardless of our nationality or the status of our health.

 Meu primeiro conhecimento do grupo diabético de Maratane chegou através a Ana, a oficial de proteção de NU. Sou um diabético (Tipo 1) também e estava a procura de uma lugar para deixar a minha insulina fria enquanto trabalhei em Nampula. Ana ofereceu a geleira de ACNUR e disse que eles recentemente receberam insuilna também para usar no campo mais não sabiam como usar. Dali, descobri um grupo complicado de indivuos que – como eu – estão sempre a procura duma maneira melhor para viver com diabetes. A ambiente dum campo de refugiados, onde comida de muito carbohidratos está dado mesalmente e onde a sistema medical não está adequada até fora do campo, faz a situação mais dificil do que a minha. Muito no grupo tentam usar a sua doença como uma via para reassentamento, a maioria só quer uma vida comfortável.

Foi claro que dentro do campo e Nampula, apoio em termos de medicamento e saúde pode ser muito melhor. As reclamas principais se tratava com transporte para o hospital central e comida. Minha analise, por entanto, me deixou impressionado com a sua nivel de saúde. Acreditei quando falavam que reassentamento foi o único maneira pela a sua saúde e segurança, mas também foi claro que já fazia tempo que eles desenvolveram metas de sobriviver no campo. Isso me interessava porque a maioria deles não vão receber reassentamento e as suas mentalidades pro-ativas mostraram que eles entenderam disso. Diabetes lhes deram uma perspectiva na vida para enfrentar a sua realidade no campo. Me fez pensar nas milhões das pessoas no mundo que têm diabetes e ainda vivem sem aceitar completamente a suas doenças. Queria se juntar essa communidades com a communidade de Maratane e por isso a video está.

Então dentro da sua historia achei várias fatos em comum de ser um refugiado num campo e de viver com uma doença crónica. Nas duas situações, uma pessoa entfrenta uma escolha: para se sentir triste sobre a sua mal sorte ou para aceitar realidade e abraçar o resto que a vida pode oferecer. Vejo essa escolha todo dia no campo e mais ainda, vejo essa escolha sendo feito fora do campo e quando penso na minha vida na EUA. A historia dos refugiados diabeticos  pode ser um caso raro mais é destro destes extremes que vejo illustradas as lições que podem ser aplicadas em todas nossas vidas, sem pensar em nossa nacionalidade ou as nossas situações da sáude.