Experts warn of looming kidney failure epidemic in Nigeria



• 24m Nigerians with
chronic organ damage
• Study alert to growing
global market for
kidneys, livers, corneas

With more Nigerians getting overweight, developing hypertension and diabetes, medical experts are warning of a looming epidemic of kidney failure in the country.

They also warn of the dire consequences of the inability of most patients to afford the high cost of treatment.

According to the experts, no fewer than 24 million Nigerians or 14.2 per cent of the population, or one in every seven persons in the country has one degree of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)/End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) or another.

To address the situation, the experts and patients recommend that the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency include treatment for CKD in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and upgrade more hospitals to take adequate care of kidney disease patients locally and prevent medical tourism and loss of foreign exchange.

The medical experts include a Consultant Transplant Nephrologist, and Clinical Director, St. Nicholas Hospital Lagos, Dr. Ebun L Bamgboye; and a Consultant Nephrologist at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital in Cross River State, Dr. Emmanuel Effa.

Also, a study, which appeared in Medical Anthropology Quarterly has confirmed a growing worldwide market for body parts that include kidneys, parts of livers and even corneas just as another new research into organ trafficking published in the journal Transplantation has called for concerted international efforts to confront the problem.

Although there is no internationally agreed definition, ‘organ trafficking’ is broadly defined as situations in which people are tricked into giving up organs, and they may be sold for financial gain but are not paid for as agreed.

Also, The Guardian investigation revealed that there are many patients with kidney damage waiting and shopping for suitable donors and are willing to pay as much as N5 million to the individual.

It was also found that there are organ-selling syndicates with contacts in most teaching hospitals spread across the country.

An investigation also revealed that due to the prevailing economic situation, some Nigerians are willing to part with their kidneys for N1 million. Our reporter was recently contacted by a source in a teaching hospital in Lagos of someone willing to part with his kidney for N1 million.

It was learnt that it costs at least, N25, 000 for a session of dialysis and a patient needs at least three sessions in a week to stay alive and would have to remain on dialysis until he or she finds a suitable donor, who is usually a blood relative.

It was learnt that though it costs at least, N5 million for kidney transplant in Nigeria , most Nigerians prefer to go to India because of lack of confidence in the local health system.

It was also revealed that a syndicate that specialises in organising the illegal sale and purchase of donor kidneys in India to patients with CKD, is currently operating in Nigeria in violation of the Indian Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994.

The syndicate, which is made up of medical doctors and other hospital personnel begins with touts who scout for and recruit commercial kidney “donors” in India in readiness for potential recipients in Nigeria.

After being certified fit enough to give a kidney, these “donors” who are actually indigent persons, are paid an agreed sum to pose as a relative of a kidney recipient.

Another set of touts operates in Nigeria, scouting for patients of CKD that are in desperate need of donor kidneys.

Bamgboye in a presentation titled “The looming epidemic of Kidney Failure in Nigeria: The magnitude of the problem”, warned that most of the major causes of CKD including hypertension and diabetes are becoming very common in the country.

Bamgboye, who is also the President, Transplant Association of Nigeria (TAN) and Nigerian Association of Nephrology (NAN), said the causes of CKD include: hypertension, diabetes; chronic glomerulonephritis; chronic pyelonephritis; analgesic nephropathy; bleaching creams and soaps containing heavy metals including mercury.

Other causes of CKD, according to him are: polycystic kidney disease; sickle cell disease; obstructive uropathy example stones, prostate, fibroids, strictures and cancers; connective tissue disorders (example Lupus nephritis, which is inflammation of the kidney caused by systemic lupus erythematous (SLE)); toxic nephropathy and Human Immuno-deficiency Virus /Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome ((HIV)/AIDS).

At a forum organised by a Non-Governmental Organisation, Cochrane Nigeria, in partnership with the Cross River State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists, Effa said no fewer than 24 million Nigerians , representing 14.2 per cent of the population are suffering from CKD.

He added that one in every seven persons in the country had one degree of CKD or another.

According to Bamgboye, hypertension is the commonest non-communicable disease in Nigeria and affects 25 per cent of adults.

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