Nigerians’ 32m failing kidneys

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A MAJOR attempt to draw attention to the increasing cases of kidney failure in Nigeria five years ago, failed. Dr. Augustine Ohwovoriole, President, Diabetic Association of Nigeria had in the light of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s hospitalisation in Germany said there was projected annual growth rate of six to eight per cent in renal failure.

Then, Dr. Ohwovoriole had observed: “The exponential growth and expansion of chronic renal failure in patients calls for more renal services, nephrologists and sophisticated dialysis machines and medicaments.”

Nigerians who are shocked about recent statistics that  at least 32  million Nigerians had chronic renal illnesses, have not followed the trend. Dr. Chinwuba Ijeoma, President of the National Association of Nephrology, said more than 20 per cent of Nigerians have kidney problems, which is over 32 million for a population of 160 million.

The number is high, but official indifference continues. The attitude of government to the sick can be judged by the quality and inadequacy of health infrastructure in the country.  A crisis — not the ritual doctors’ strike — is brewing in the health services sector with the neglect of challenges like renal failure.

Renal failure ranks high among killer illnesses in Nigeria, but unlike malaria and HIV/AIDS, it is ignored.
Cost of treating the ailment is high.

The required personnel and facilities to cater for patients are highly inadequate. Nigeria has only 75 neurologists and about 50 functional dialysis centres. Poor earnings and a chaotic medical system deny Nigerians access to these dialysis centres, which are mainly in the urban centres, far from the patients, especially from the rural areas.

Nigerians with the resources seek medical relief abroad, a practice that our leaders have etched into some of their benefits for being in power. For our leaders, local medical facilities are used as photo opportunities. They remain in their power state because they are never built to treat the high and mighty.

Until Nigerian leaders can be treated in our local hospitals, the country’s health services, like education, would be run under an apartheid system that provides the best for the leaders — always at our expense — while whatever happens to the people does not matter.

Without any resources to combat a problem that is clearly beyond them, they resort to cheap but untested methods of treatment that leaves them half-dead. Renal failure has been attributed to drug abuse, fake drugs, which again point at poor drugs and health management services.

Any government that thinks that its people are important would tackle their health needs, instead of reserving overseas medical services for itself and its cronies, an attitude that sentences Nigerians to poor medical services.

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