The recent commemoration of the World Kidney Day (WKD) has once again drawn attention to a health condition that has steadily become one of the leading “silent killers” in the country. Nigeria, on 10 March, joined the rest of the world to mark the 2016 edition of the event. As it had been the case for the past eleven years, when the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations (IFKF) commenced the annual campaign to raise awareness on the importance of kidney care, programmes were once again organised by stakeholders all over the world to mark the event with the theme: “Kidney Disease and Children; Act Early to Prevent It.”
Apparently, this year’s commemoration was aimed at urging all stakeholders to work together to increase kidney health education in children, parents, caregivers, policymakers and the general public, as well as reiterate the importance of identifying and treating childhood kidney diseases and consequently building more healthy future generations.
According to the ISN, kidney disease affects millions of people globally, including children, who may be at risk of kidney infection at an early age. The group therefore noted that it is imperative to encourage and facilitate education, early detection and a healthy lifestyle in children, to fight and tame the increase of preventable kidney diseases and to treat children with inborn and acquired kidney problems.
The WKD initiative deserves ample commendation because chronic kidney disease is fast becoming a major public health scare worldwide. In Nigeria, the situation is indeed dire as confirmed by President of the Nigeria Association of Nephrology, Dr Ebun Bangboye, who put the number of Nigerians suffering from various stages of kidney disease at a whopping 36.8 million (about 23 per cent of the total population). According to Dr Bangboye, who is also the chief medical director of St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos, this figure indicates that one in seven Nigerians is suffering from some form of kidney disorder.
But figures aside, a more disconcerting issue is the difficulty patients with kidney disease in the country constantly go through to access treatment. Many of the specialists, as well as facilities that are required to routinely treat patients with kidney disease are not readily available in the country. In the few places where they are available, the cost of treatment is simply astronomical, with some patients requiring to spend up to over 500 thousand naira monthly on dialysis, which runs into millions of naira annually. Yet this pales into insignificance when compared to the cost of kidney transplant and the accompanying post-treatment care.
With many patients dying because they cannot afford recommended treatment for their kidney ailments, we believe the time has come for the Nigerian government and stakeholders in the health sector to lay more emphasis on prevention and assisted treatment. The campaign to reduce the rising incidence of kidney failure in this clime must be taken beyond the annual World Kidney Day commemoration. Nigerians must be sensitised that prevention of kidney disease is by far cheaper and better than battling to tame the condition when it is already advanced.
Nigerians, especially those having a history of diabetes and hypertension, should be urged to go for regular check-ups, as improper management of such conditions has been proven to be a risk factor. Government should ensure that more citizens have access to proper kidney screening to encourage early detection of the condition. As experts have observed, most deaths recorded from kidney disease in Nigeria are essentially due to late presentation at the hospital, with most being presented as a case of chronic kidney disease (CKD) which is “irreversible” kidney damage.
Nigerians must also be made to know that aside keeping physically fit and having regular check-ups, maintaining a healthy fluid (water) intake is helpful in preventing kidney disease as this helps the kidney to clear sodium and toxin from the body. Additionally, the populace must be urged to avoid abuse of over the counter (OTC) pills like paracetamol, which experts have said have long-term negative effect on the kidney.
Nigerians must equally cultivate the habit of eating healthy food, maintaining proper weight, reducing salt intake and avoid smoking – which has been confirmed by several research to impair the ability of the kidney to function properly.
It is our view that encouraging these preventive behaviours will go a long way to help curb the increasing incidence of kidney failure in Nigeria. We also call on the government to subsidise treatment and drugs for kidney disease to alleviate the financial burden that often prove unbearable for most of the patients and their families.
Except more pragmatic effort is put into addressing this condition, we may in no distant future have to contend with an epidemic of chronic kidney disease in Nigeria.