From Steve Oko, Umuahia
High blood pressure and consumption of herbal concoction have been identified as the leading causes of kidney diseases in Nigeria.
Consultant Physician and kidney expert, Dr. Chimezie Okwuonu, who disclosed this in a chat with newsmen in Umuahia, decried the increasing rate of kidney -related ailments in Nigeria even among young people.
According to him, the increase in kidney diseases is global “but Africa is the worst hit because of high poverty rate. ”
He also identified excessive intake of salt, diabetes, repeated kidney infections , undisciplined feeding habit as other causes of the dreaded ailment.
Okwuonu who was among the team of experts that conducted the first -ever successful kidney transplant at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC Umuahia, two years ago lamented that kidney disease patients in Nigeria are not properly cared for unlike their counterparts abroad due to poverty.
He said the average cost for dialysis is between N25,000 and N30,000, and that a patient needs to undergo dialysis twice or three times a week.
“The problem with renal care is that the basic consumables are not procured locally”, he regretted.
He, therefore, urged government to subsidise medical treatment for kidney patients while advocating that the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS be more universal in coverage to accommodate other citizens outside the working class.
“Kidney care is also not well covered in the NHIS. Only six sessions are covered a year where as a patient for kidney transplant needs dialysis three times a week,” he said.
He also appealed to state governments to be involved in providing renal care for their citizens.
He noted that with government’s more involvement in providing renal care, the plight of kidney disease patients would drastically reduce.
Okwuonu said that where as it costs between N25,000 to N30,000 to undergo dialysis in Nigeria, it takes only equivalent of N3,000 in Cameroon and N5,000 in Niger Republic due to government subsidy ; adding that in Benin Republic, it is free of charge.
The kidney expert whose Foundation- The Beatitudes Kidney & Dialysis Centre Foundation is offering free dialysis for kidney patients in Aba, however, noted that kidney diseases are curable contrary to the belief by many.
He advocated regular screening at least once a year for everyone, saying that early diagnosis increases the chances of survival.
Okwuonu said that the free one week dialysis accessible at his clinic annex at St. Paul’s Hospital Umungasi, Aba from April 8th was borne out of his passion for kidney disease patients.
He recalled that about three of his patients from Aba had died on their way to Umuahia due to bad road, hence his decision to open the centre to make renal care more accessible to them at a more affordable rate.
The kidney expert said his foundation, in partnership with an American foundation , also helps in sourcing sponsorship for indigent patients.
“When we discovered that the dialysis centres in the state is not enough for the rampart cases of kidney diseases in the state we decided to fill the lacuna to provide easy and affordable renal care to the people.
“Our American partner offers one free dialysis a week for our patients preparing for kidney transplant. We want more partners to save more lives.”