Pakistan has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and scientists say inter-family marriage has a role to play in the rising number of cases.
“Inter-family marriages are the main reason behind diabetes, so we need to focus on this area in addition to other areas. Our research finds info also show that we need to reduce these inter-family marriages in our country,” Asif Mir, a genetics research scientist, told Al-jazeera.
Despite the construction of 115 state clinics, official statistics report that roughly 80,000 Pakistanis die annually from the disease, while over 150,000 patients suffer amputations due to delayed medical attention.
In an interview with BBC, Professor Dr. Bilal bin Younis from the Shalamar Hospital Lahore said, “It’s the lack of awareness on the part of the patients. The lack of access to the medical care especially in the rural areas- not seeking the medical advice early on and ignoring the disease initially,” said
However, the age-old custom of inter-family marriages in the region doesn’t help the situation. Health professionals have begun to bring awareness to the growing risks of physical and mental disorders, encouraging education, as well as multiple blood tests prior to marriage.
Skin, heart, kidney, and neurological conditions among other serious disabilities such as blindness, deafness, Down’s syndrome and diabetes are among the most common, said Dr. Shaneela Asad.
“There is a 25% chance that an offspring of a cousin marriage will contract a disease or disorder coming down from one parent,” said Asad.
A study from the University of Health Sciences Lahore’s Department of Human Genetics showed that almost 82.5 percent of Pakistani parents are first, second, or third cousins. Of these, 6.8 percent are immediate cousins, while 6.3 percent hail from the same castes.
Since 1980, Pakistan composes roughly 8.5 percent of the world’s diabetic community, the World Health Organization said. Medical professionals warn that the number of Pakistanis with diabetes will likely increase to 12.8 million by 2035.