DAKAR, Senegal — A new mobile phone app called mRamadan is helping people with diabetes in Senegal be safer and healthier during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Senegal is the first francophone country to pilot this program.
The app allows users to receive free, daily messages including recommendations for how to remain healthy before, during and after fasting for the holy month of Ramadan. These messages have a variety of subjects including reminding users to drink a liter of water each morning, how to adjust schedules for taking diabetes medication and instructing users not to eat too many sugary foods at night.
The most common side effect seen in diabetics who adhere to a strict fast is hypoglycemia. Dr. Maimouna Ndour Mbaye, a professor of internal medicine and diabetology in Dakar, said, “The first risk is hypoglycemia, which can be very harmful to the brain.” Continuing, she said, “There is also a risk of hyperglycemia, because when they fast, their diabetes is less controlled. They cannot take their medication on a regular basis as they do on a normal day.”
The month of Ramadan usually sees a spike in the number of emergency hospitalizations for diabetics because people are uninformed of how to properly fast with the illness. Many people will stop taking their insulin injections in order to comply with the expectations of Ramadan, in which no substances can enter the body during sunlight hours.
mRamadan is providing important advice for people who may not receive proper medical recommendations otherwise. Marie Gadio, a Senegalese woman living with diabetes, said, “Certain diabetics just fast as they want, without knowing anything, but now our technology is developing and people can take advice from this program.”
Islam does exempt people who are in poor health from fasting, but most Muslims want to keep their faith strong, which includes fasting for the month of Ramadan. With this new app, diabetics will be safer and healthier while being able to participate in a very important cultural experience.
The mRamadan app is part of a program called Be He@lthy Be Mobile, which was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The program intends to help countries around the world fight non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes.
– Hannah Cleveland