Kidney ailment pushes Canacona people to migrate

Canacona, the southernmost taluka of Goa, has been hogging headlines for several years over widespread prevalence of kidney ailment. Once you enter into Canacona and engage with some local person the tyranny of kidney ailment comes in automatically after a few minutes.

The ghost of kidney diseases still haunts 45,000 populace of Canacona so much so that even a simple case of high-blood pressure or malnutrition becomes a ‘doubtful case’ of kidney ailment there. Now people of Canacona no longer whisper about kidney ailment — they discuss it, debate it and have a dialogue among themselves exploring how to combat this ever lurking disease in their life.
“It’s the biggest problem we’re facing in our life here… kidney problem is like part and parcel of Canacona’s demography,” says Mr Dilip Gaitonde, the president of an organisation Seva Sankalp. To help people combating the deadly kidney disease Mr Gaitonde and his organisation invites a team of three Ayurvedic doctors led by Dr Raghuvir Bede from Ratnagiri once in every month.
“Canacona had emerged as a trouble area with kidney ailments attaining alarming proportions over several decades and without any further hiccup I must say it still is,” says a government servant preferring anonymity.
Earlier, it was reported that out of  the total kidney patients admitted in the Goa Medical College and Hospital, Bambolim, roughly 80 per cent were from Canacona taluka.
There is a separate nine-bed kidney dialysis unit opened in 2008 at the local primary health centre where, says Dr Vinod M Naik, at least four patients visit every day.  Thousands of dialysis have been done in the unit.
A local social researcher says kidney ailment has been the biggest push factor for out migration from Canacona. The disease of kidney kills you slowly and it has been a dreadful curse in Canacona, says a local journalist.
For Dr Aman B Prabhu Gaonkar Canacona has been the endemic area for kidney patients. “Kidney ailment has been the major concern for people of Canacona and the government should adopt a proactive approach to tackle this problem,” admits Dr Prabhu Gaonkar.
Dr Prabhu Gaonkar further says that the problem exists since 1990 in Canacona and, he wonders, Goa still is bereft of a kidney biopsy lab.
When asked about what could be the factors responsible for the kidney ailments in Canacona, Dr Prabhu Gaonkar lists: “It could be environmental, genetic, unhygienic conditions, poor socio-economic status or a play of all factors…I mean, more than known there are more unknown causes for this.”
Repetitive studies by the state government through private agencies or else have failed to pinpoint the exact reason behind the kidney cases in Canacona. Informed sources told The Navhind Times that a study done earlier by the preventive and social medicine department of the GMC and the directorate of health services for nearly three years too remained inconclusive on the exact cause of the kidney disease in Canacona.
However, the doctors put forth different explanations to reach the conclusion. Some say diabetes remains the leading cause of kidney failure while others point out environmental, kidney stone, high levels of uric acid in the blood; even some say it could be genetic, also with chronic infection in childhood.
In March 2009, the then state minister for health, Dr Suresh Amonkar had reportedly urged the residents of Canacona to extend their support and cooperation to find out the root cause and solution to the “alarming increase” in the kidney disease in the region.
Local people, however, rued that nothing much has happened since then as the kidney ailment remains the predominant health issue for them.
A photojournalist coming from Canacona, Mr Soiru Komarpant told The Navhind Times that several of his village men, including his uncle, had died due to kidney disease in last two-three years.
“It’s very common in Canacona that someone has died due to kidney ailment or the chronic renal failure,” he said.
Similarly, a senior academician of the local Shri Mallikarjun College of Arts and Commerce, Mr F M Nadaf too had reportedly said that kidney ailment reeling in the area has also been one of the major push factors for migration from Canacona.
Many in Canacona taluka, however, have some other take to offer. Canacona is inhabited by two communities: Pagi and Velip. The coastal area is predominant with Pagi with fishing as their main occupation, whereas Velip dominates the hilly region with farming as their primary occupation.
“Both the communities have barter system between them to exchange their products and these communities are high risk groups for the kidney disease,” said the journalist.
Confirming this, the Indian Journal of Science and Technology [Vol. 3 No. 3, March 2010, ISSN: 0974-6846] carried a report on “relevance of renal disorders among the residents of Canacona in India” stating that the “high incidence of renal disorders in Canacona taluk of Goa in India has been a matter of great concern.”
As to the reason for the high prevalence of renal disease in Canacona, the report said: “Studies done in the past is that clinically this disease seems to be similar to Balkan Endemic Nephropathy [BEN] which is an environmentally acquired disease and the most plausible environmental agents responsible are the mycotoxins produced by fungi in mouldy cereals and food products and aromic compounds in drinking water.”
But, Dr Venkatesh, who is nephrologist at the Canacona government health centre’s dialysis unit, is not convinced. He says there are only 36 kidney patients in the taluka undergoing treatment today whereas two months back, the total number of kidney patients in Goa was 179.
“Earlier, it was because of calcium and magnesium in the well water which were destroying nefron of kidney among the Canacona residents. But, now with the clean potable water the number of kidney patients has gone down here,” he said.
When asked isn’t the number of 36 confirmed cases of kidney patients still high for a taluka when the country figure is 10 in one million, Dr Venkatesh said he didn’t think so.
But, significantly, the three patients Ms Sweta Pagi, Ms Lusini Kerker and Mr Ramakant Pagi lying on bed in the dialysis unit of the Canacona government hospital looked not convincing. [NT]