2023 Year in review: Looking back and looking forward

As 2023 ends, we are filled with gratitude for the memories, significant strides and lessons learned during a remarkable year. Here are the highlights.

19 December 2023 Andreea Enea

Visiting rural Georgia gave our team and Board of Directors a unique opportunity to listen to many stories from people with diabetes and their peers, and meet partner organisations.

Our partners’ commitment never wavered. Their synergy, ownership, and expertise brought about important projects elevating the health of their communities in sustainable ways. And we are proud that we can support them in this journey sharing the same mission: empowering people in the global battle against diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. 

Join us as we reflect on the highlights and the milestones achieved by our dedicated partners and colleagues throughout 2023 – a testament to the power of the collective and the potential for positive change!  


We started the year with our Foundation announcing changes to our Board of Directors. We welcomed four new members, each bringing expertise such as digital health and social financing, reproductive health and chronic health conditions, and other key areas.  

We also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with France’s development agency Agence Française de Développement (AFD) in Paris – a new collaboration supporting the integration of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) into national health policies and systems, particularly in Africa. The agreement paves the way for new opportunities to increase access to diabetes and NCD prevention and care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).  


We visited the World Bank office in Washington DC for a series of insightful discussions on new areas of cooperation to scale up global investments to prevent and control diabetes and other NCDs.  

Data is essential to the work towards proper care and improved outcomes for people with diabetes – the lack of it on the incidence and mortality of type 1 diabetes is a major obstacle in achieving improvements. Our contribution to A plan to improve global type 1 diabetes epidemiology data article in The Lancet is one example emphasising this need. 


The integration of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy (HIP) screening and care into Colombia’s healthcare took a great step forward. The WDF-supported project ‘Generacíon Vida Nueva: Gestational diabetes in Colombian Caribbean’ expanded to Phase 3 to ensure healthier pregnancies and positive pregnancy outcomes in eight departments of the republic.  

A new project also launched in Georgia to strengthen the protection of health and the educational rights of children with diabetes. It focused on increasing awareness of the challenges and the rights of children with diabetes, advocating for improved support and expanding access to care.  

WDF met with The Helmsley Charitable Trust and UNICEF in Malawi, among other partners, to visit joint project sites and explore new opportunities to strengthen diabetes care together.  

At a meeting chaired by the Secretary for Health, we met with ADRA International, NCD Alliance and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to discuss the expansion of NCD prevention and care in Malawi


Our fundraiser for 2023, ‘Empowering Lebanese and refugee youth to prevent NCDs’, was officially announced. The project is enabling access to sports and nurturing life skills for more than 1,000 children and youth from disadvantaged families in urban areas of Lebanon. Kids are trained by young volunteering instructors in free, safe and accessible public facilities and are taught about healthy lifestyles and nutrition. The project is rolled out by GAME Lebanon, an international NGO working for social change through youth-led street sports and culture.  


It was an important month for advocacy. The 76th World Health Assembly took place in Geneva, and WDF was present during the busy week meeting partners and ministries of health and joining key discussions on universal health coverage and integrated care.  

Moreover, our partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was featured in the UNHCR Global Appeal 2023 report (p. 91) as an example of impactful health programmes. It targets better NCD care for up to 1 million refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons, and at least 500,000 host community members in Burundi, Sudan and Tanzania. 


For World Refugee Week 2023 (19-25 June), partners in Palestine launched the booklet ‘The Power of Partnerships: Reflection on the 20-Year Journey Fighting Diabetes in Palestine’, which documents the story of a unique model of multi-sector cooperation transforming local projects into a successful national diabetes program (PNDP) in a protracted humanitarian crisis. The national NCD response provides equitable access to diabetes prevention and care services for marginalised communities by equipping centres, building capacity, unifying policies and guidelines, and raising awareness of NCDs through an integrated approach.  

On World Refugee Day, WDF and partners shared their reflections on the many efforts made in the region and other humanitarian settings.

The 2023 fundraiser project in Lebanon focuses on primary prevention amongst Lebanese and refugee children and youth living in vulnerable settings, including Palestinian children.


Our Digital Health team took another step closer to bringing diabetes screening in remote communities. In Tanzania, partners, people with diabetes, community leaders, healthcare workers, and NCD advocates met with our colleagues to co-create effective and inclusive communication campaigns ahead of the upcoming Diabetes Compass solution. Similar community engagement activities have taken place in Sri Lanka as well.  


We held the first webinar in Spanish as part of our Partner2Partner Academy (P2P) – an open space for learning, innovation, and knowledge-sharing for our partners. The session, Intercultural Health and NCDs: Global Perspectives and Experiences of Indigenous Peoples in Latin America, was led by partners in Central and South America who shared reflections on integrating traditional knowledge into health systems to ensure equity and improve the health of Indigenous Peoples – a key area for WDF. Previously in March, we held the first webinar in French on primary care and the World Health Organisation’s Package of Essential NCD services. 


Our Board of Directors went to rural Georgia to see the impact of the six projects supported by WDF over the past decade. The projects have been serving socially vulnerable populations including Armenian, Azari, and Georgian communities in remote areas where access to NCD care is a critical challenge. Through local empowerment and a strong multi-sector network of partners, the small-scale projects have developed into larger programmes that continue to make a difference for people at risk or living with diabetes or other NCDs in Georgia.

Community health workers like Georgia's Red Cross Society volunteers are vital in supporting rural and socially vulnerable communities affected by diabetes.


WDF became a member of the Global Impact Investing Network and took part for the first time in its annual Impact Forum, delving into sustainable ways to scale impact investments in social issues. We introduced the Diabetes Investment Accelerator – an initiative developed to streamline investments in outcome-based solutions such as social impact bonds, part of our efforts to explore innovative financing models to increase attention towards NCDs in LMICs.  

We also visited Lebanon to meet GAME, the implementing partner of our 2023 fundraiser that took off in April this year. See the impact of the incredible generosity of our donor in this video from the visit.  


WDF went for an inspiring walk with Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, CEO of Novo Nordisk, and Professor Emeritus Ib Bygbjerg, founder of the Global Health programme at the University of Copenhagen. The discussion was part of our Global Diabetes Walk awareness campaign and reflected on the sustained impact of collaborations between the private sector, academia, and philanthropy for diabetes prevention and care.  

World Diabetes Day was an opportunity for the Ministry of Health in Kenya to announce the launch of the four-year programme ‘Integrating Diabetes and Hypertension Prevention and Control into Primary Health Care’. The scale-up of the national NCD response is the largest WDF-supported project in terms of grant size and builds on the earlier two phases, getting the country closer to achieving universal health coverage. 


We joined UNHCR’s Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, the world’s largest international gathering on refugees, for a series of events and activities related to our ongoing large-scale partnership with UNHCR. Our team also joined the conference ‘Trust and transformation: resilient and sustainable health systems for the future’ in Tallinn. The event marked the 15th anniversary of the Tallinn Charter where member states of the WHO European Region reiterated their commitment to universal health coverage and drew upon the lessons learned from the pandemic.

WDF joined the Global Refugee Forum, a valuable opportunity for community representatives, host countries and many stakeholders to share experiences and co-develop new solutions.

Wrapping up... 

  • 2023 also reflects in a few numbers telling stories of change: 
  • We had 95 active projects worldwide 
  • We welcomed 8 colleagues to the team 
  • We signed 14 new projects  
  • We raised more than €130,000 for the fundraiser project in Lebanon  
  • 66,000 participants from 80 countries joined the Global Diabetes Walk campaign 

... and we look forward to many more. 

We are confident that together with our community of partners, supporters, project participants and colleagues we will continue to create a meaningful impact in 2024.  

Warmest end-of-year wishes,  

The World Diabetes Foundation team

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