Socioeconomic development and changes in lifestyles have been accompanied by the emergence of diabetes as a major problem in Eastern Mediterranean countries, but reliable epidemiological data are still scarce and comparability is generally poor. For non-insulin-dependent diabetes (NIDDM) in adults, risk is higher in urban than in rural subjects, and in all populations prevalence increases with advancing age. Whereas several surveys have reported prevalence of the order of 5%, a recent national survey in Oman, which used the full WHO criteria for diagnosis, based upon the 2 hour blood glucose concentration after a 75 g oral glucose load in all subjects, reported a prevalence of diabetes of 10% in those aged 20 years and over. A further 8% of men and 13% of women had impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). Insulin-dependent diabetes (IDDM) was reported to be considerably rarer in Kuwait than in Europe and North America, but some more recent data suggest variability in frequency within the region. IDDM is frequently accompanied by ketoacidosis at diagnosis. For NIDDM, 75% of cases are associated with obesity. Long-term complications appear to occur to the same extent as in Western countries. A recent WHO Task Force meeting has set goals and targets for diabetes prevention and control within the Eastern Mediterranean Region.