he pathetic situation of the people who are becoming victims of the Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in the North Central Province has drawn the attention of the Consecrated persons – the Religious – ministering in the diocese of Anuradhapura. For the Religious, there are different possible ways of concretising the one vocation to follow Christ. Nevertheless, what is most significant about each is not that which is distinctive but that which they share in common: love of God, living in Christ and serving the people who are in pain and need, with compassionate love.
The Regional Religious Unit (RRU), composed of priests and nuns belonging to ten Religious Congregations, headed by Rev. Fr. Felix Mellawarachchi, SDB, is finding ways and means to provide some relief to those who are prone to this disease (CKD) and also temporary shelter to the relatives who come from distant places to see the sick persons in the government hospital and other medical facilities at Anuradhapura. The decision for such a commitment originated in RRU at a special Day of Prayer held at the Holy Family Convent, Talawa on February 17, 2018.
Knowing more about the Situation
At a workshop organized by the Regional Religious Unit (RRU), on May 9, 2018 at Rajabima Oblate Centre, Anuradhapura, Prof. Channa Jayasumana, MBBS, PhD, FRCP Edin, Head, Dept. of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Rajarata University, Anuradhapura, said according to Prof. S.A.M. Kularatne who had been a consultant physician in the General Hospital, Anuradhapura in the 1990s, it was only in 1995 that he had come across sporadic cases of CKD inviting his attention.
He had discovered that number of CKD was increasing and in 1996 more than 100 CKD patients were from Medawachchiya, Padaviya and Kebithigollawa in NCP Medical research has proved that this situation has been caused by excessive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides for the cultivation of paddy, vegetables and fruits during the past several years and also through occupational exposure of the agricultural communities to herbicides. As a result, many have become victims of CKD. Their findings show that this disease is festering at a frightening speed. According to hospital sources, more than 650 kidney patients visit the main Anuradhapura Hospital OPD daily and about 350 are for dialysis. Dialysis is given to kidney patients in the hospitals but many patients are unable to find financial resources to obtain this help. Many families therefore are compelled to pawn their jewellery and mortgage their property.
According to Prof. Channa Jayasumana there is a dramatic increase of chronic kidney disease and diabetes in NCP. He says that there are 44,000 CKD patients in the district of Anuradhapura and 18,000 in the district of Polonnaruwa (Lankadeepa, Sept., 16, 2018). Recently a team of specialists of the Rajarata University under the leadership of Prof. Jayasumana, had conducted a survey in the schools and had discovered that 10% of the 5000 school children were suffering due to CKD in the district of Anuradhapura. What will be the situation of the children in the future – their survival and livelihood?
Prof. Jayasumana says the situation has been aggravated by using multiple chemical fertilisers without proper personal protective equipment, living in areas with low elevation, eating rice, vegetables and fruits and drinking water from the same area and being subjected to dehydration. Non-availability of safe drinking water and for the preparation of food is one of the main problems affecting the vast majority of the people living in the North Central Province (NCP).
Follow-up of workshop: A special Committee
As a follow-up of the workshop conducted by Prof. Jayasumana on May 9, the RRU set up a special committee composed of Rev. Fr. Felix Mellawarachchi,SDB,Rev. Fr. Dileepa Jayamaha, OMI,Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Fernando OMI,Rev. Sr. Alexia P.C. and Rev. Sr. Helen Fernando HF to propose concrete measures. Besides creating awareness among the people in NCP regarding CKD, the special committee decided to raise funds to provide water filters (purifiers) and help control the spread of kidney related disease.
Remedial measures by RRU
a) The Rotary Satellite Club of Pamunugama also responded to the appeal made by RRU chairperson, Rev. Fr. Felix Mellawarachchi SDB, the Parish Priest of St. Anthony’s Church, Mihintale, to install a water purifying industrial filter which can provide 5000 litres of clean water each day in the hospital at Mihintale so that the sick who come to the hospital could benefit. Dr. Sisira Kumara, the chief physician of Mihintale hospital, thanked Rev. Fr. Felix profusely who was instrumental in obtaining that water purifying filter, saying that it is only the Mihintale hospital in the NCP, which is situated in the heart of a sacred Buddhist town, is blessed to have such a water purifier at present. He also thanked the members of the Rotary Satellite Club of Pamunugama, who are predominantly from a Catholic area, for coming forward to grant such a very generous gift to the people of Buddhist environment. The filter was installed in the presence of a Buddhist monk, the doctors, nurses and representatives from various Institutions.
Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Fernando OMI and Rev. Sr. Subashini Samaratunga HF were also present with Rev. Fr. Felix. In his speech, Rev. Fr. Felix Mellawarachchi said that Jesus was born to serve the people and people of good will also need to get together to serve the people in need. He thanked the members of the Rotary Satellite Club of Pamunugama for their spirit of unity and of sacrifice.
b) Through the initiative of Rev. Sr. Nilanthi Ranasinghe FMM and through the mediation of Rev. Sr. Lilian Perera FMM of the Polonnaruwa community,Rev. Fr. Rasmi Fernando SJ, the former Parish Priest of Christ the King Church, Hingurakgoda, received financial assistance from a Hungarian couple and the Holy Trinity Foundation to provide water purifiers to Nikapitiya, (48 km from Hingurakgoda), Diyabeduma and Daham Pasala (Minneriya).
c) Mazenod College, West Australia, has very generously supported Rev. Fr. Dileepa Jayamaha, OMI, the Parish Priest of St. Eugene de Mazenod Church,Pothnegama, Anuradhapura, to install a domestic water purifier in the church and also in each house of the 60 families in his parish.
d) Rev. Fr. Roshan Wass OMI, the present Parish Priest of Padaviya, with the financial assistance from generous benefactors, was able to get the big water purifying filter repaired, which had been installed in the church premises at Padaviya by former Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Kelum Dias OMI for the people. This filter has the capacity to provide 500 litres per day.
Temporary shelter for patients, visitors
The Holy Family Nuns at the Anuradhapura (New Town), who are also members of RRU, have responded to an urgent need in the North Central Province to provide temporary shelter to the patients and to their relatives who come from distant places to the hospital and other medical Centres at Anuradhapura.