The inspiration for this project began when I was selected as the UK representative in the “Young Reporters Against Poverty” competition. I travelled to Europe with representatives from each EU country and received two days of journalistic training, before attending the European Development Days.
I like to think that things happen for a reason, and although I was pursuing a different topic at the conferences, I had a break in my schedule and decided to attend ‘NCD’s: The Silent Killer’, hosted by the NCD Alliance. I had no idea what an NCD was, or why there was someone dressed as a white elephant in the corner of the room. However the words on the projector struck a chord, “I wish I had AIDS, not diabetes”- the words of a diabetes sufferer in Cameroon. The reason why? There is simply no international aid for insulin, the life-saving drug needed by those suffering from diabetes.
I already knew more than a little about diabetes- my grandfather suffered from Type 2, and my cousin Charlotte (now aged 9) was diagnosed 4 years ago. If diabetes could cause so much heartbreak here in the UK, I could only imagine how hard it must be in the developing world. I had never even thought about the fact it might exist there- or why it was never really talked about.
I found out that diabetes was classified as an ‘NCD’- non-communicable disease- which means it is not infectious, essentially, although it appears that it has literally been non ‘communicable’ in the Western media. Other such conditions include cancer, chronic heart disease and asthma. These conditions can often be managed successfully- however, currently less than 2% of international aid goes towards their treatment. Having been named as not only last year’s second biggest killer but also the second greatest risk to the global economy, I thought this was a great development story.
The next stage when I returned to the UK was finding a way into the story, so I could share it with an audience who perhaps didn’t know as much about diabetes or development. Case studies are often used by charities for this purpose, and after a lot of internet research found my very own case study in Dr Pendsey. Miles away in Nagpur, India, he had set up a clinic for children with diabetes, and with intensive fundraising is providing life-saving care to diabetic children who have no other access to insulin there. I was struck by the honesty of his testimony on his website, as he described the deaths of two young children that had inspired him to begin his work.
I had my story.