“Over the past decade, 91% of the renal fellows sponsored by the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) have returned to their home institutions and, in Africa, their employment has meant the increase of expertise in the management of kidney diseases. It is hoped that under the guidance of trained fellows, management audits and registries will be produced to inform on local pathology and in doing so create a map of diseases in Africa.”
Nephrology is a ‘Cinderella speciality’, a disregarded area of health care, in Africa. Other health issues have relegated the treatment of kidney diseases to a low priority status, and the cost of treating the more common and widespread communicable diseases, financial mismanagement and corruption in many countries has sounded the death knell for expensive therapies such as dialysis. The communicable diseases that have devastated the health systems around Africa are tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Until recently, very little information was available on the impact of HIV on acute and chronic dialysis admissions. Patients with acute kidney injury (AKI) in most of Africa are seldom treated because of great distances to travel, lack of expertise, poverty and poor sustainable funding for health matters. An acute peritoneal dialysis (PD) programme has now been initiated in Tanzania but the sustainability of this project will be tested in the future. The International Society of Nephrology (ISN) has developed a training programme for nephrologists from developing countries, which may now be bearing fruit. A report from the sub-Saharan Africa region shows that the numbers of patients on dialysis and those diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) has increased significantly. Other ISN-sponsored programmes such as Continuing Medical Education activities for physicians and community screening projects have had far-reaching positive effects. Government funding for a dialysis programme is well established in South Africa, but this funding is limited so that the numbers accepted for public dialysis are restricted. Consequently in the Western Cape province of South Africa, a ‘category system’ has been formulated to attempt to cope with this unacceptable and restrictive ruling.