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Nigeria: Kidney Failure – a Chronic Ailment On the Rise

Ugboja Felix Ojonugwa
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Many families have lost their loved ones to kidney related illnesses in recent times because of sheer ignorance and to a greater extent, cost of getting treatment when diagnosed of it. Ugboja Felix Ojonugwa writes that in spite of the enormity of sorrow this illness has caused many homes, the government seems to be doing nothing as victims are left to bear the cost all alone.

Before now, little was heard of kidney failure as a major kind of everyday illness but the reverse has become the case in recent times.

The increasing burden of chronic kidney disease (CDK), and end-stage renal disease presents a challenge for both developed and emerging countries like Nigeria.

Renowned Nollywood actor, Muna Obiekwe, recently joined the long list of Nigerians who have lost the inglorious battle against kidney failure.

Some of the popular victims of chronic kidney disease in Nigeria are broadcaster, Steve Kadiri, former president, late Shehu Musa Yaradua, Inspiration FM presenter Chaz B, movie actor, Enebeli Elebuwa and singer, Mozzyx.

Music producer, OJB Jezreel, movie actress Ngozi Nwosu, Rhythm FM presenter, Meka Akerejola are, however, among those who are lucky by a narrow margin.

Medical experts have revealed that more people die every day from kidney related diseases than malaria and HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics reveals that the death rate from intrinsic kidney and urinary tract disease was one million in the year 2002; ranking twelfth on the list of major causes of deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, and, indeed, Nigeria.

By 2020, according to the report, the burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease will have increased by 130% in Africa alone.

Speaking at the international symposium on chronic kidney disease and renal transplantation organised by St. Nicholas Hospital in Lagos, Dr Ebun Bamgboye, president-elect, Nigeria Association of Nephrology and chief medical director of the hospital stated that more than five percent of the adult population has some form of kidney damage, and every year, millions die prematurely of cardiovascular diseases linked to chronic kidney diseases (CKD).

Experts have said that 36.8 million Nigerians (23 per cent) are suffering from various stages of kidney disease in Nigeria.

With this figure, it means that one in seven Nigerians is suffering from some form of kidney disorder or another.

He lamented the burden of the disease noting that an estimated 15,000 new patients are diagnosed every year in the country.

“Chronic kidney disease prevalence is a problem in our environment. Estimates suggest that one out of every seven Nigerians has one stage of chronic kidney disease. Unfortunately, out of 50,000 patients, who should ideally be on dialysis, less than 1,000 are currently on dialysis as at today”, He said.

“Unfortunately, if you have kidney failure and you don’t do dialysis or transplant within two weeks, you will die. You can imagine the number of people that are dying every day because of kidney disease”. He added.

As deadly as this menace is, available statistics on kidney diseases has remained scarce.

The lack of renal registries means that there are no reliable statistics about the prevalence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in the majority of African countries including Nigeria.

Major Causes Of Chronic Kidney Diseases

Kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located close to the back inside the human body. Although this pair of organ is relatively small, they are among many other things responsible for ensuring that the blood circulating in our body is free from harmful organisms, waste products and excess water.

Seeking answers to the myriad of questions regarding kidney disease, LEADERSHIP Sunday met with Dr Oyoyo Victor Onome, a health expert. According to him, kidney(Renal) failure is a medical condition in which the kidneys fail to adequately filter waste products from the blood. The two main forms are acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease.

Causes of acute kidney injury, according to Dr Onome include conditions when the blood supply to the kidneys is suddenly interrupted by accidents, injuries, or complications from surgeries in which the kidneys are deprived of normal blood flow for extended periods of time. Drug overdoses, accidental or chemical overloads of drugs such as antibiotics or chemotherapy are also a cause.

He stated that causes of chronic kidney disease are numerous, the most common causes are diabetes mellitus and long-term uncontrolled hypertension.

Other causes include: Polysystic kidney disease, Overuse of common drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and paracetamol.

Emmanuel Dike, a medical practitioner also listed diabetes, smoking, alcohol and HIV/AIDS as some of the causes of kidney failures.

Accessing Kidney Treatment In Nigeria

According to Dr. Onome, Treatment of the underlying disease may be the first step in correcting the kidney abnormality. Some causes of kidney failure are treatable and the kidney function may return to normal. Unfortunately, kidney failure may be progressive in other situations and may be irreversible.

If the kidneys fail completely, the only treatment options available according to Dr Onome may be dialysis or transplant.

The treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease in Nigeria is not as simple as it is in some developed countries of the world.

Due to cost and un-accessability, a lot of patients die before they are ever attended to.

Most dialysis centers are situated in cities, placing a further burden on patients who often have to travel long distances to a dialysis center.

Unlike some African countries like Rwanda and South Africa, there is no government funding for treatment in Nigeria. This leaves the entire burden to individuals who most often can’t bear the cost for too long.

A typical renal patient has three to five hours dialysis treatment three times per week, and dialysis can only replace about 10% to 15% of the function of healthy kidneys.

In Nigeria, according to Dr Onome, each session of dialysis treatment will cost an average of N25, 000.00 (twenty- five thousand naira). N75, 000 per week and N900, 000 per annum, a cost much more than what the average Nigerian worker can bear.

As for transplants, there are about nine centres in Nigeria, and it costs about 3 to 4 million naira.

After the surgery, transplant patients must take immunosuppressant drugs, which keep their bodies from fighting and destroying the transplanted organ and these drugs must be taken for life with a combination of other drugs, which are usually not in stock by regular pharmacists due to the cost implication. In most cases, they are often imported specially for the patients’ use.

Probable Factors Responsible For The Rapid Increase Of CKD In Nigeria

The increase in incidence according to Dr Onome can be tied to lifestyle changes (westernisation), and other un-healthy practices like smoking and excess alcoholism.

content provided by NHS Choices

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