By Chaturanga Samarawickrama
At least 70,000 people have been afflicted with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and it had caused more than 20,000 deaths in the country over the past decade, Sarvodaya said.
It said the North Central Province (NCP) reported the highest number of CKD patients and mortality rates, and that the majority of those affected were from poor farming communities.
“More than 65 per cent of the people in NCP depend on farming for their livelihood. Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa Districts fall under the dry agro-ecological zone. CKD in these areas has become a major burden on the national healthcare system,” it said.
According to reports, Sarvodaya has said non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension -- which are non-contagious -- were on the rise.
“Since the 1990s, a new type of CKD where no obvious cause was identifiable had been on the rise, especially in rural hamlets. According to the Health Ministry and the Presidential Task Force, 29,336 CKD patients were recorded in 2010 and the number has soared to some 40,000 by 2014. However, current data are unavailable,” it claimed.
A majority of patients was middle-age male rice paddy farmers living in remote areas with little or no specialist care. It was reported that there was a nexus between high fluoride levels in drinking water and the kidney disease, and there were unhealthy levels of fluoride in groundwater in CKD-affected areas. Men tend to spend more time in paddy fields or farms and dehydration (owing to exposure to the scorching sun) make them consume more and more water or their popular beverage, tea, which in turn adds more fluoride to their system. In average, a farmer drinks at least four to five cups of tea per day and the intake of fluoride for 24 hours can reach higher than other persons who drink tea prepared using underground water.
According to research conducted by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information , 70 per cent of CKD patients live in the Northern and North Central Provinces. Of them, 15.7% and 9.6% were diagnosed as hypertensive and diabetes mellitus patients respectively.
Today, the government has taken various measures to combat this malady through the Presidential Task Force on the Prevention of Chronic Kidney Diseases, the Health Ministry, the Social Services Ministry, the National Water Supply and Drainage Board, the Agriculture Department and the Mahaweli Authority. Moreover, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Society of Nephrology are some of the international bodies supporting this initiative.