The picturesque Uddanam region lies in the North-Coastal Andhra Pradesh region covering Kaviti, Sompeta, Kanchili, Ichapuram, Palasa and Vajrapukotturu mandals in Srikakulam district. This region has been plagued by a mysterious Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), now labelled Uddanam Nephropathy. Although the first case was registered some 20 years ago the cause is yet to be scientifically established. In 2015, it was estimated that more than 4,500 people had died in the last 10 years, and around 34,000 people were suffering from kidney diseases in this area alone.
The disease is known to disproportionately affect farmers and agricultural workers. Coconut and cashew are the main crops grown in the area. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this is one of the three regions in the world with the highest concentration of CKD after Sri Lanka and Nicaragua.
Pawan Kalyan, supremo of the Jana Sena Party (JSP), picked up the issue in 2017. He brought much needed attention to the suffering of the victims from the government and medical community. This ensured that the health department took notice and tried to address the issue by providing Rs. 5,000 to the victims as pension, supplying medicines, setting up free dialysis units and organising regular health camps.
After coming to power in September 2019, the YSRCP government in-principle sanctioned a 200-bed Super Specialty Hospital with a Kidney Research Centre and Dialysis Unit at Palasa with an estimated cost of Rs. 50 crore. But with no cure in sight, victims often just resign to their fate, waiting for eventual death. Locals and activists have said that addressing the issue will require conducting detailed studies to ascertain the cause and cure of the condition.