NIGERIA'S KIDNEY DISEASE BURDEN
The recent confirmation that 30 million Nigerians suffer from kidney ailments by the National Association of Nephrologists (NAN) is another sad and worrisome news from the health sector.
President of the association, Dr. Chinwuba Ijoma, told participants at the 23rd General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the association in Benin City, Edo State, that no less than 20% per cent of Nigerians have kidney problems. Poverty, inadequate health facilities, and lack of subsidy for treatment of the disease were identified as worsening the problems of victims.
The incidence of kidney disease in Nigeria is alarming. No responsible government should be comfortable with this figure, especially with the dearth of medical facilities to manage the ailment in the country.
At the moment, very few Nigerian hospitals can do kidney transplants, which is the last resort for kidney failure patients. Dialysis machines required to manage the problem are very few in the country, and the cost of dialysis is well beyond what the average Nigerian can afford.
The disease has also become another contributor to capital flight from the country as thousands of Nigerian kidney patients are currently in hospitals in different parts of the world, especially India, for transplants at a huge cost.
Since the nation's troubled health care system cannot provide adequate facilities for the management of the disease, it behooves the relevant authorities to focus on its prevention. The government should educate people on the causes, and how to stave it off. Many factors have been identified to contribute to development of kidney disease in Nigeria. These include ingestion of fake, expired and adulterated drugs; high blood pressure; poor Western-style diet low in natural food, overuse of certain simple medications including analgesics and uncertified herbal preparations; stress, obesity and lack of exercise.
Self medication and failure to undergo regular medical check ups also contribute to the escalation of the disease. In addition, the dearth of medical equipment for diagnosis and funds for treatment lead to deterioration of simpler ailments to serious kidney disease.
We call for public enlightenment campaigns on the causes, symptoms and prevention of the disease. The campaigns should be conducted in different parts of the country and in both English and the local languages.
We urge Nigerians to begin to show interest in matters pertaining to health. Let us begin to obtain and heed medical advice on prevention of kidney ailments.
Government must also do more by way of provision of diagnostic equipment and dialysis machines for treatment of the condition. The present situation in which dialysis machines are few and far between in the country is not good enough. There should be no reason why Nigerians should travel out in droves for dialysis and transplants abroad. The authorities should set up specialized kidney centres in all the states. The centres should not only be provided, treatment should be heavily subsidized as dialysis is expensive and the cost of kidney transplants runs into millions of naira, which most Nigerians cannot afford.
Poverty that has been identified as a contributing factor to the disease should be tackled and the public health sector strengthened to discourage self medication, and ensure people obtain correct medical treatment at all times.
Now that kidney disease has become a major national health problem, the government should conduct a study to determine the actual causes of identified cases. Such statistics will go a long way to educate the people on how to avoid becoming victims.
Above all, kidney patients in the country deserve all the help they can get. Let government heavily subsidise the cost of diagnosis, drugs, dialysis and transplants to ease the burden of patients.