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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Kidney trade 'booming' in Afghanistan as organ trafficking lures the poor

The country is suffering under the weight of poverty [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 February, 2021

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As the country attempts to recover from war and famine, Afghanistan is also struggling with a healthcare crisis.
Afghanistan has a serious problem with illegal kidney trade as the country bows under the weight of a decimated healthcare service brought on by war and famine, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Officials at Loqman Hakim Hospital say the hospital has performed more than 1,000 kidney transplants in five years, with people coming in from across Afghanistan as the procedures are, in comparison to the rest of the world, a fraction of the cost, the report said.

The problem, the report went on to say, is that organ acquisition is not regulated, and doctors performing kidney transplants do not know where the organs come from.

The hospital is in charge of transplant and initial recovery of the patients – both the donor and the receiver of the organ – "without asking questions".

After several days the patients are sent home.

"It’s not our business," said Dr. Farid Ahmad Ejaz, a hospital physician told the Times when asked about people selling their kidneys for cash.

"In Afghanistan everything has a value, except human life," said Dr. Mahdi Hadid, a member of Herat’s provincial council.

Like most countries across the world, the sale and purchase of organs is illegal in Afghanistan, as is the implanting of purchased organs by physicians.

Prices for kidneys on the black market vary wildly. A 36-year-old imam and kidney recipient from Kabul, Gulabuddin, said he had paid $3,500 for his kidney, purchased from a "complete stranger" with a commission of $80 to the broker.

The price of a kidney can be higher, reaching up to $4,500.

"Unfortunately, this is common in poor countries," said Dr. Abdul Hakim Tamanna, Herat Province’s public health director.

"There’s a lack of rule of law, and a lack of regulation surrounding this process."

Poverty

The country is suffering under the weight of poverty, which was expected to reach over 70% in 2020, according to the World Bank.

The country relies on foreign aid, and funding for healthcare remains low.

First-hand accounts from people who have sold a kidney speak of abject poverty, debt and desperation as drivers for the sale.

One man revealed he sold a kidney to pay off debt.

"It was difficult, but I had no choice. Nobody wants to give up a part of his body to someone else," he said. "It was very shameful for me."

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