BBC gives voice to agony of kidney patients in Uddanam

The World Health Organization recognizes Uddanam as one of the key areas in the world that has long-term kidney problems. Sri Lanka along with Nicaragua in Central America and Uddhanam has the most serious kidney problems. Because of this, 4500 people died in the last decade till 2015 and 34,000 people suffer from kidney disease. The International Nephrology Congress has termed this as 'Uddanam Nephropathy'.

The BBC Telugu crew visited the affected areas in March and made a story and a film. Here is a gist of what the story talks about.

“My life has become hell. I cannot bear the pain and sometimes I feel like dying" said Vasu, a kidney patient from the area. 70 per cent people from Uddanam suffer from Kidney disease and Vasu is one among them, He had been diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease three years ago. From then on, life has become difficult for him.'' My life has become hell for me. I feel like hell. Dialysis is not very helpful," Vasu said.

167 villages comes under Uddanam. Here, the cause of kidney disease is not known for 20 years. Farmers and labourers have been mostly victims. Coconut and cashew are the main crops here. "We do not have any other life. Whatever we earn goes into this. But my health is not improving. If it continues like this, where do I get money for my doctors’ visits? "he rues.

In October 2018, the Tithili cyclone hit the Uddanam area. Many people here asked whether compensation should be given for rebuilding their farms or for their kidney disease. Because both are very much needed.

A woman named Rama Rumman said 10 people in their house had this illness."All I know is that all the people who got kidney disease will die. I do not know if there is a drug to cure it or not. I need to borrow money for our hospital visits. We are drowned in debt. My husband is having health problems and has migrated to Mumbai for work. With his earning we are able to clear some of our debts. I cry all the time thinking of our situation,” she said

Several organizations, including the Indian Council of Medical Research, Harvard University, Visakhapatnam’s King George Hospital, Andhra University and NTR Health University have conducted studies on this issue. Numerous theories have been proposed. But no study have given a conclusion for this problem,.

After several concerns were raised that nothing was being done to solve their problem,  the Andhra Pradesh government decided to undertake a study.

The government has set up dialysis centers in Palasa, Sampate, and Kavithi after 2017. Dialysis costs here are being borne by the government. A sum of Rs. 3,500 per month is provided free and 21 types of medicines are distributed free of cost.

There are no nephrologists in these dialysis centres. And people trust the medications provided by the private practitioners.

"We cannot live with the government money. I need medicines. I need medicines that can cure me, not the money. The medication is the last hope for us, "he said.

The George Institute of Global Health, which is conducting the study for the government, has collected 2,423 samples from 167 villages. The study results are yet to be made public.

*The story is based on media coverage in BBC News Telugu. Watch the patient story and read the full article in telugu.