Unarguably, this year’s World Kidney Day activities calls for a sober reflection as more people worldwide continue to develop and live with kidney diseases. In Nigeria, no less than a staggering 25 million persons (about 13.9 per cent of the population) are battling with kidney failure.
According to statistics, about 850 million people globally have kidney-related diseases, while chronic kidney disease (CKD) accounts for at least 2.4 million deaths per year and it is the sixth fastest growing cause of death. Worse still, the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) reveals also that CKD affects approximately 195 million women worldwide, and it is currently the eighth leading cause of death in women with close to 600,000 deaths each year.
Similarly, acute kidney injury (AKI), which is an important driver of CKD, affects over 13 million people worldwide and 85 per cent of these cases are found in low and middle-income countries and about 1.7 people die annually because of AKI.
Besides, CKD and AKI are key contributors to increased morbidity and mortality from other diseases and the risk factors include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension, obesity, as well as infections such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and hepatitis.
It is against this backdrop that every March 14, the World Kidney Day (WKD) is marked as a global event with medical professionals, government officials, the general public, celebrities and patients taking action locally to raise awareness about the high and increasing burden of kidney diseases and the need for strategies to prevent and manage it. This year’s World Kidney Day (WKD), is a joint initiative of the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations (IFKF), with the theme, ’Kidney Health for Everyone
The event is a wakeup call for universal health coverage (UHC) for prevention and early treatment of kidney disease. It is also directed at raising awareness about the importance of kidney to the overall health. Part of the activity also is to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide. Others include to bring to light the fact that diabetes and high blood pressure are key risk factors for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), to encourage systematic screening of all patients with diabetes and hypertension for CKD, to encourage preventive behaviours, and to educate all medical professionals about their role in detecting and reducing the risk of CKD, particularly in high risk population.
As a newspaper, we are alarmed that 25 million people are battling with kidney failure in Nigeria and that about 18, 000 will need dialysis every year and getting this dialysis is a Herculean task owing to the prohibitive cost involved. For instance, the cost of dialysis is about N30, 000 per session and patients need about three sessions per week, which is almost N100, 000 per week and about N400, 000 per month. Not many Nigerians can afford this and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) covers just three sessions of dialysis.
We advocate that the NHIS cover more sessions, from three to 36 sessions (three months), while government ensures adequate monitoring of the treatment programme, as well as reducing the cost of kidney drugs by removing import duties on them.
Even the dialysis centres are inadequate and mostly located in the urban areas. For a country the size of Nigeria, we can only boast of about 149 dialysis centres in Nigeria, both private and public, with only about 600 dialysis machines, which is grossly inadequate.
The cost of kidney transplant is also very expensive, in the range of N10 million and above, while the post-transplant drugs and routine tests can cost almost N3 million yearly. The nation also has inadequate number of health specialists to cater for the huge number of those affected. There are about 160 nephrologists, which is less than one per one million persons. While we call on government to pay more attention to the health of its citizens, we equally warn the citizenry to always go for simple examinations for blood pressure, blood sugar and urine tests, and to avoid things like bleaching cream, the abuse of analgesic, non-steroid drugs and native herbs.
Media outlets must, as a matter of urgency, join hands with the government in the arduous task of educating the public by sharing and giving much attention to accurate information and up to date research conducted by specialists and experts across the world.
In order to combat kidney ailments successfully in the country, the Nigerian government must make public health a priority. This means that more resources should be committed to combating the kidney scourge in the country with the provision of the state of the art infrastructure. This will curtail the sad loss of the country’s best medical practitioners and researchers to countries with standard infrastructure.