Annually, approximately 5,000 people are diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology (CKDu). Research has been conducted at the university as well as ministerial level since the disease was first recorded in the beginning of the 1990s. President Maithripala Sirisena pointed out that none of the reports including those of World Health Organization were conclusive about the origin of the disease.
He said this during a felicitation of his contributions towards the prevention of chronic kidney disease held by the International Society of Nephrologists (ISN), during the inauguration of the ISN-Gardiner CKDu Fund, in the presence of a distinguished international gathering of experts and diplomats including ISN Secretary General Adeera Levin, at the Colombo Galle Face Hotel on December 19.
Prevalence of CKDu
Experts say that as many as 400,000 people in NCP alone may be afflicted by CKDu. According to some medical experts around 5,000 deaths are reported per annum. A livewire in the Gardiner Foundation who is also Senior Vice President of Galle Face Hotel Chandra Mohotti says that many deaths go unreported as they occur at home in remote areas.
About 20,000 people have died of CKDu over the past two decades in the NCP alone. Eighty per cent of deaths occur within two years of diagnosis, due to factors such as late reporting and diagnosis; lack of dialysis machines; non-availability of pure drinking water; expensiveness of the drugs; and poverty.
Although the NCP records a high incidence of CKDu, the condition is not common in other rural areas that cultivates paddy. The unique hydrochemistry of drinking water, hardness of ground water, heavy metal retention capacity of the soil in the NCP have been cited in many researches as reasons for the prevalence of CKDu in NCP. Fertilizers and pesticides have also been identified as a possible causative factor.
A study published in January 2010 by a team of Sri Lankan and Japanese scientists hypothesized that the unique hydro-geo-chemistry of the drinking water with its high levels of fluoride, is a decisive factor in the high CKDu incidence in NCP. Rising temperature has exacerbated the situation by forcing people to drink large quantities of chemically polluted water, opine the Japanese.
Low income farming communities continue to suffer from CKDu. Provincial as well as district level programmes have been conducted under which their economic and social statuses and severe daily challenges they face have been looked into, said the President.
While admitting that practical difficulties prevented the total eradication of kidney disease, the President informed that the Government strove to provide people with clean drinking water, common amenities, housing while also strengthening livelihoods. The President also commended Asela Iddawela for his role as a Director of the Presidential Task Force on the Prevention of Chronic Kidney Disease.
The President presented plaques to Asela Iddawela, Dr. Tilak Abeysekara, Dr. Georgi Abraham and Prof. Adeera Levin.
Ministers, Ravi Karunanayake, Champika Ranawaka, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Arjuna Ranatunga, John Amaratunga, Presidential Secretary PB Abeykoon, ISN Secretary General Prof. Adeera Levin, United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Atul Keshap and Ambassador of the Presidential Task Force on the Prevention of Chronic Kidney Disease and the Chairman of Galle Face Hotel, Colombo, Sanjeev Gardiner attended the event.
ISN-Gardiner CKDu Fund
Sanjeev Gardiner, Chairman of the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, who also heads the Gardiner Foundation had been appointed as an Ambassador for the Prevention of Chronic Kidney Disease in order to garner national as well as international level cooperation to eliminate the said disease. The President is keen on involving global players in the campaign against CKDu. He is of the belief that countries could help each other with funds, equipment, medicines and expertise.
Gardiner was moved to start the Foundation upon witnessing the plight of kidney disease sufferers in NCP. In fact it was President Mithripala Sirisena who hails from the NCP and is deeply concerned about the CKDu menace there, who appointed Gardiner as the Ambassador for the national campaign against CKDu last year. The President had no hesitation in bringing Gardiner and his foundation into the fold. Gardiner heads a conglomerate of successful business ventures in Sri Lanka and overseas besides the historic 150-year-old Galle Face Hotel.
The 46-year-old Sanjeev Gardiner had already set up the Gardiner Foundation to help CKDu patients in Sri Lanka with a personal contribution of Rs.30 million. The Gardiner Foundation is already up and running in the North Central Province (NCP) which has the greatest incidence of CKDu in the island. Gardiner opines that global awareness and international support is indispensable in the campaign against CKDu. Consequently it was deemed fitting to obtain the support and concurrence of prestigious international organizations such as the International Society of Nephrology. The Gardiner Foundation (GF) of Sri Lanka, has since tied up with the Brussels-based International Society of Nephrology (ISN), to help rid Sri Lanka of CKDu.
More than funds, equipment and accessories are required, says Chandra Mohotti of ISN-Gardiner Foundation. Disposables such as syringes will have to be replaced. Medicines will have to be imported and made available at an affordable price, informed Mohotti. He suggested that the government could reduce the customs duty on CKDu drugs and equipment and accessories to achieve this objective.
The Gardiner Foundation’s motto is: “To create and maintain an independent and international Fund to support, care and do research towards the prevention, provision of relief and treatment to patients suffering from Chronic Kidney Diseases worldwide.” The Foundation will help promote CKDu research and education, offer fellowships and grants for research and provide funding for training programs of health workers and professionals.
The ISN will be involved in policy formulation and the structure and functioning of the ISN-Gardiner Fund. The ISN role in this venture was a matter discussed during the launch of the ISN-Gardiner Fund.