Gashua’s Rising Renal Failure Plague, By Isa Sanusi
…the people of Gashua are coming to grip with and doing everything possible to fight the rising plague. What the people deserve now is support in terms of research, public health enlightenment and assisting those who are currently grappling with the pain of the disease, coupled with the high cost of dialysis and drugs.
What is happening in Gashua now sounds similar to the substance of Albart Camus’ 1947 novel The Plague. Just like the town at the centre of the plot of Camus’ work, Gashua is also facing a plague. This is not fictional but real and devastating. Renal failure appears to be on rampage in the town.
Much of what is known about Gashua, an urban town in Yobe State, is its remoteness, harsh weather and its infamous prison. That prison was used by the then military regime in the late 1980s and 1990s to incarcerate famous activists. The late renowned lawyer and activist, Gani Fawehinmi spent time in the Gashua prison. But there is more to Gashua then these. It is a town blessed with a large and long stretch of the Yobe river. The river sustains life. Fishing, irritation farming and bustling business activities have been thriving in this town for ages. The people are hardworking and enterprising – making the town attractive to all those who want to thrive from across the country and beyond. Gashua is a mini centre of business in the northward part of Yobe State.
Development came with expansion – very rapid expansion, especially in terms of population growth and the growing need for basic social services.
As far back as the 1960s, Gashua had an urbane and enlightened traditional ruler, late Mai Umar Suleiman, who laid the foundation for its successes in education, healthcare, business and farming. The subsequent reign of late Mai Saleh Suleiman was also glorious. At a point in the past, Gashua had the best water supply system in the whole region.
But this town is now confronted by a disaster. High cases of renal failure have been terminating lives and putting many at the risk of imminent mortality. The statistics are jarring. Data collected shows that from January to October 2018, up to 467 cases were recorded in medical facilities across Gashua. At least 85 per cent of people with cases of kidney ailment at Yobe State Teaching Hospital are from Gashua, while 80 per cent of those in Federal Medical Centre Nguru are also from Gashua. Governor of Yobe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Geidam deserves commendation for providing the world class medical facility that is Yobe State Teaching Hospital, which has eased the pain of people suffering from renal failure – who in the past had been shuttling all the way to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital for routine dialysis.
…Why the rise in renal failure? And: How can it be tamed? The youth initiative to find answers to these crucial life-and-death questions is also thinking outside the box by emphasising prevention and support for those already affected.
People and community leaders have been asking: What really is the cause of this growing epidemic? And how can lives be saved from it? Finding answers to these questions has started with a very impressive voluntary effort of a youth group called Bade Emirate Youths Initiative for Development. These young men have taken it upon themselves to reach out to elders, health specialists and other community leaders in trying to find a solution to the problem. They organised a town hall meeting last month in Gashua and brought together traditional rulers, community leaders, business men, medical doctors and other health workers. The gathering agreed on ways of addressing the staggering rise in renal failure, assisting those already affected with medical care and devising a robust public enlightenment programme on the disease. The emphasis now is on prevention. The current Emir Mai Abubakar Umar Suleiman of Gashua has been demonstrating good leadership by supporting and making himself available for driving this youth initiative towards addressing the problem.
Crucial and correlated questions include: Why the rise in renal failure? And: How can it be tamed? The youth initiative to find answers to these crucial life-and-death questions is also thinking outside the box by emphasising prevention and support for those already affected. This initiative involves bringing in Ulama and Imams of Juma’at Mosques, who are then enlightened by specialists on how they could educate their congregations on the prevention of renal failure.
Wherever a plague breaks out, as depicted in Albert Camus’ The Plague, there is always a ‘blame game.’ Some fault the lack of water for the problem. Others put the blame on the lack of proper and empirical research to determine its causes. Others attribute the high cases of renal failure in Gashua to the use of deadly chemicals to rapidly ripen fruits. A number of people say the problem is rampant because some use pesticides to preserve smoked fish or beans. The speculations are many on the causes of the disease. But the good side of it all is that it is not all ending up in an endless blame game. The people of Gashua are taking action. Young people have taken up the challenge of finding solutions. Some are suggesting the provision of rapid and sustained health outreach across Bade Local Government. For others, part of the solution is in the provision of dialysis facilities in Gashua. There are also calls for massive enlightenment on the dangers of the wanton use of unrefined traditional and herbal concoctions.
Again, despite the growing impact of a renal failure epidemic, the people of Gashua, and particularly the young men behind Bade Youths Initiative for Development who took up the challenge, have shown resilience. Like the people of Oran in Albert Camus’ The Plague in 1940s, the people of Gashua are coming to grip with and doing everything possible to fight the rising plague. What the people deserve now is support in terms of research, public health enlightenment and assisting those who are currently grappling with the pain of the disease, coupled with the high cost of dialysis and drugs.
Isa Sanusi, is a communications specialist based in Abuja.