Across the world, chronic kidney disorders (CKD) are reportedly on the rise. At the moment, public awareness on the disease is poor. In Nigeria, for instance, the government is apparently not doing enough public enlightenment on the prevention and curtailment of chronic kidney disorders.
Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse by the day. We believe that this is the time for the various governments to come out with workable measures to tackle the scourge. It has been estimated that more than one person in ten adults currently suffer from CKD, and the numbers are increasing frighteningly.
Globally, more than 850 million people are believed to be suffering from different types of kidney diseases. The number more than doubles that of the 422 million people living with diabetes. It is 20 times more than those living with cancer (42 million) and even those living with HIV/AIDS (36.7 million.)
Medical experts have claimed that more than one million people are killed annually by kidney diseases. In sub-Saharan Africa, about 14 per cent of the adult population suffers from chronic kidney diseases, while in Nigeria no fewer than 25 million people suffer from CKD. Every year, about 17, 000 new cases are diagnosed in the country.
The situation is dismal due to inadequate awareness about kidney diseases. Most Nigerians have little information on the prevention of kidney diseases, just as treatment and management of kidney disorders are virtually nonexistent in many parts of the country. In the few facilities available for the management of CKD, treatment is far too expensive for the average citizen to afford.
The Nigerian Association of Nephrology (NAN) recently explained that managing chronic kidney disease is very expensive. Patients in need of dialysis are likely to spend about N30, 000 per session three times a week. That would amount to about N360, 000 a month.
And in a country where the majority of the citizens suffer from extreme poverty, and where the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) hardly covers more than the regular ailments, like malaria and typhoid fevers, CKD may amount to a death sentence.
Yet, kidneys could be kept healthy through one’s lifestyle choices. For instance, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are conditions that can lead to kidney diseases. A proper management of these ailments can ensure healthy kidneys.
Nephrologists have also counselled that to prevent kidney diseases, individuals must make healthy food choices. They should limit their salt intake, avoid fried foods as much as possible and make physical activity part of their daily routines. They should also maintain a healthy weight, get enough sleep, avoid smoking and limit consumption of alcoholic beverages and stress-inducing activities.
However, the major challenge in Nigeria is the proliferation of alcoholic beverages with high ethanol contents, popularly known as bitters. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other regulatory agencies are probably not doing enough to regulate these drinks.
These cheap alcoholic bitters are being unleashed on the populace without proper guidelines on their consumption. Millions of Nigerians, especially the youth, also consume other home-made beverages with strong mixture of alcohol and narcotics, such as tramadol and codeine. All these add to the nation’s chronic kidney diseases burden.
It is sad that most fruits consumed in Nigeria are ripened with carbides and other dangerous chemicals that harm the kidney. And there are no specific laws to check such unwholesome practices.
Lack of awareness is a major contributor to the high number of Nigerians afflicted with kidney conditions. Unlike diseases such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, not many people are sufficiently sensitised on how to prevent kidney ailments. The government needs to do more in this regard.
There is also the challenge of inadequacy of medical experts needed to handle kidney diseases in Nigeria. According to the Nigerian Association of Nephrology (NAN), there are only about 160 nephrologists in Nigeria. That is less than one specialist to one million people, which is grossly inadequate.
Nigeria needs to invest in the training of more nephrologists and ensure that they are spread across the country. Right now, they are restricted mostly to the urban areas. More dialysis centres should also be established. Nigeria currently has about 149 public and private dialysis centres with about 600 dialysis machines. The figure is pathetically low.
Nigerians should take their health issues seriously, avoid self-medication and visit the hospital for regular check-ups.