Cyrine Farhat is good at multitasking.
By day, she’s a Project Manager at Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation and a Life Coach. When she’s not working her regular jobs, she serves as a volunteer Global Advocate with T1International and runs Positive on Glucose, the NGO she founded in 2019. The mission of Positive on Glucose is to provide free access to diabetes care, mental health services, diabetes education and information, and to provide support and outreach to people, caregivers, and spouses of people living with diabetes. Positive on Glucose believes in “advocacy through community” and gives access to diabetes coaching services to all its members.
As part of her role as, Cyrine leads a bi-monthly support group for people living with diabetes and caregivers of people living with diabetes, with about 50 people attending every month. Cyrine says, “Support groups change the lives of people living with diabetes! I have seen people become open about their diabetes after keeping it a secret for years. I have seen people take the lead in their management and drop their A1C in 2 months because they feel empowered. To feel seen, heard, and appreciated for who you are can do wonders!” In addition to all of this and other volunteer organisations she participates with, she’s also managing her own type 1 diabetes.
Cyrine lives in Lebanon, a country in the Middle East that has been in the midst of a severe economic crisis since 2019. Life in Lebanon is often challenging. Sudden and frequent gas, fuel, and electricity shortages cause multi-hour traffic jams. Citizens burn tires in the streets in protest of the political situation. Things are even scarier for people like Cyrine and those in her organisation who are living with diabetes and other chronic health conditions. The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Lebanon does not prioritize diabetes in its list of supported conditions and thus the assistance provided to people living with diabetes to afford their vital medications is extremely limited.
In recent months, currency in Lebanon has devalued almost 90%, making goods extremely outpriced. The country is barely managing to subsidize even the most basic medications and minimal supplies of fuel. Anything that isn’t already deemed essential - for example painkillers, cancer drugs, and dialysis treatments - are no longer being subsidized or even available in pharmacies. While insulin would still be subsidized, Cyrine learned that Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) supplies would no longer be eligible for coverage, making them completely unaffordable for the families that relied on them. Immediately, she mobilized a group of mothers of children with diabetes to fight for CGM supplies for their children. Cyrine and the group of mothers kept pushing the MOH to continue subsidizing these supplies, making the case through letters and phone calls that if people are not able to care for their children now, health complications will be much more costly down the road. “Mothers are the powerhouse,” said Cyrine.
Cyrine and the dedicated women she worked alongside were successful in convincing the MOH to continue subsidizing essential diabetes meds for the coming 4 months, so people will still be able to find and purchase them. Still, the MOH is limited in what it can do and for how long to help its citizenry under current conditions. Cyrine is working to compile a list of various foreign relief organisations and NGOs such as the WHO who are supporting Lebanon or who may be able to help.
With other advocates, Cyrine will be presenting data to the WHO related to the vital importance of providing adequate blood glucose monitoring equipment to people with type 1 diabetes, particularly children and pregnant women. As an advocate with T1International and in her work with Positive on Glucose, she hopes to raise awareness in the Lebanese population to build the support needed to lobby the MOH to add diabetes to its list of supported conditions.
T1International has provided tools and support to ensure Cyrine’s plans are detailed and realistic, and allowed her to connect with other advocates around the world who can offer support and guidance. “T1International has been an asset and an outstanding pillar on my road with advocacy. They have laid the blueprint, and have always been a phone call away when in need of advice. I honestly would be able to do anything I do if it weren’t for them!” In the longer-term, Cyrine is developing a plan to provide more sustainable care and supplies to her community by establishing a free clinic for people with diabetes. In a recent conversation, she relayed excitedly that she just may have found the perfect space for the clinic.
If you’re interested in learning more about T1International’s Global Advocacy Network, visit the web page.