Shortage of medicines hits beneficiaries of Mittayi project for Type 1 diabetic children

Many parents find it difficult to afford insulin, insulin pump consumables and glucometer strips

November 09, 2023 11:59 pm | Updated 11:59 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Beema, a home-maker, has been spending sleepless nights for the past two weeks. She sets an alarm for 2.55 a.m. to check her 10-year-old son Mohammed Nasih’s sugar levels, and then administer insulin accordingly.

Mohammed was just 45 days old when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Four years ago, he got an insulin pump through Mittayi, a project implemented by the State government through the Kerala Social Security Mission (KSSM) to provide medicines and care to children with Type 1 diabetes. The pump that can be attached to the body brought much relief to the family for it meant Mohammed got insulin round the clock, eliminating the need for injections.

For the past two weeks though, Mohammed, a class V student of Government Model Higher Secondary School, Chavadinada, Venganoor, has not been getting insulin or insulin pump consumables from SAT Hospital in the State capital. Instead, he is using an insulin pen. But since needles for the insulin pen are also not available at the hospital, the family has been purchasing them from outside.

Over 200 needed

Glucometer strips are another expense. While 50 strips are available for a Type 1 diabetic through Mittayi, it is never adequate as sugar levels have to be checked five or six times a day at least. An average of 200 or more strips are needed a month. So, Beema and her husband Habib purchase the strips, which cost ₹18 to ₹20 each, too from outside.

An insulin pump sensor sends an alert, making monitoring of sugar levels easier, especially during night. But sensors have not been available for some months, she says. “At night, we get little sleep for we are forever worried that his sugar levels will shoot up.”

With three children in the family and only Habib’s income to make ends meet, Beema has been praying fervently that the life-saving insulin become available soon. Her plight, she says, is better than that of parents who have more than one child with Type 1 diabetes.

In Kozhikode, Hiba Fathima’s two older daughters have Type 1 diabetes. The girls need insulin, needles, and glucometer strips, but have not been getting them from the Mittayi clinic for the past two weeks. Both the children were eight-and-a-half-years old when they were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Now, they are 13 and 11. “Through the Mittayi clinic, we would have got stocks for two months. Now, we have to buy it from outside.”

Insulin pen

Hiba says they check the children’s sugar levels only a couple of times a day since they cannot afford to buy so many strips. When it comes to insulin, it gets worse. Hiba’s younger daughter cannot do without insulin so she takes the sole insulin pen they have to school. The older daughter spends the school hours without eating anything, till the younger one returns home and the older one can use the pen to take insulin and then eat food.

Hiba has two other daughters too. They all depend on what her husband earns as a driver. “The sooner the medicines become available, the better it is for us. Without Mittayi, we are finding it hard to make ends meet,” she says.

A number of districts are experiencing shortage of medicines, say associations of Type 1 diabetics. “We hear that the tenders have been issued and stocks will be replenished soon,” they say.

Supply awaited

Usually, supply orders are placed a month beforehand. It is learnt that this time, the orders were placed on October 31, and supply of medicines is awaited.

The KSSM has clarified that the Mittayi project is not being discontinued, and that the funds for medicines have already been earmarked this year.

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