Organ trafficking in Africa

May 27, 2016

In the past, Africa was described as hub of poverty which could be seen everywhere with exception of north african countries and South Africa which were flourishing back then, thanks to oil and mineral resources respectively. In one study i came across, a village in Nigeria in 1980 had a 95 per cent of people have no employment and most of them spend their days scavenging through their farms.That was the time Africa’s largest economy was under the rule of military.Overall, more than a quarter of the population is employed and more than a third is self employed.But despite the significant strides such African countries have made, the recent unearthing of evidence of an organ trafficking trade where Africans are selling their kidneys to countries like China and India is heartbreaking.The lure of $15,000 is too much for residents who live in the villages in rural Africa.What caught my attention from the report was one of the victims there, including 9-year-old whose parents apparently were in need of money to pay off their debt of a local shylock.It even became more painful when in the report investigators identified local health officials in the village who organised the deal, convincing the parents of the tween that it was medically safe and her health would not suffer.The medical check-ups and surgery took place at the government funded clinic.With the money, the parents of the victim bought a television, paid the debt, and acquired an iPhone 6 plus and some furnitures.

As they say, easy easy go and the iPhone 6 plus was stolen a month later when the father of victim went to the city.One of the investigators quote his as saying that he regretted it very much.But in my view, those regrets are shenanigans that won’t help because his daughter will live with one kidney for rest of her life. I was deeply saddened by the story while reading the report.One of the report authors whom i spoke to, told me that officers being one of those in charge of the investigation into the organ trafficking trade in Africa, more than 600 victims have so far come forward to seek his help over the last three years alone,which has helped him and the team in arresting three suspected brokers. I was shocked to learn that hospitals being used are a government public hospital which are supported by rogue private hospitals, for preliminary checking.In his own words, the detective told me the operation and surgery done was sophisticated, so good hospitals have done it.International law clearly bans the sale of human organs for any reason. Those found guilty of the practice can be sentenced to a many years behind bars and a fine. Culprits can also face charges of human trafficking.However, as with any type of coveted contraband, heavy punishment has not eradicated the black market for human organs in African countries, given the high demand for donations.

In certain East African country last year, coppers arrested several people on charges of harvesting and selling kidneys to hospitals and another young boy for attempting to sell his kidney.Beyond the Public Relations machinery that security agencies in Africa have in place for such arrests, Africa is left, of course, with the thriving black market, with people on social media still offering kidneys or bone marrow for as less as $5,000. Some that I have across on Twitter come with price tags of $5,000 – $20,000 while others simply cite financial needs, such as ‘€œI need money fast to pay school fees.’€ One seller last week, posted on twitter her age and blood type and claim to be healthy and alcohol free middle aged woman. The seller even quoted how more than 6,000 kidneys were currently needed for people with chronic kidney failure in East African countries alone. In my view, African governments needs to look at developed countries where the organ trade is commonplace despite being illegal, as well as well as countries where government regulates trade in organs, paying part of the price to screened sellers, with recipients and charities paying the rest of the funds.In the report, authors recommend a model that seek solutions to the long waiting list for organs from living or recently deceased donors, resulting in what report author see as preventable deaths in African countries, contributed to by the lack of legal compensation for donors.

However, i feel that ethical questions abound because in Africa, religious figures are very powerful and in some instances they meddle with such affairs with recent case being where a member of the pulpit was quoted as saying that organs should be donated, not sold. Worries about regulating the trade also revolves on fears that focusing on transactions would eventually sidestep the necessary strict screening of donors before and after transplants. But in my opinion, such regulation would at least reduce the criminal human organ brokers and traffickers across Africa where more than 28,000 people are losing their organs annually. Organ sellers in Africa are living healthy with no financial worries which attracts others to consider engaging in same business. The prospect of a relative or friend lining up to sell kidneys, livers and other organs is certainly embarrassing to me or anyone close to such a person but its even more shameful to any government in Africa that claims to be doing its best to alleviate poverty and create job opportunities. In conclusion, reading that confidential report made be confirm my long held view that merely going after organ brokers and harvesters in Africa will not eradicate the trade, as trading one’€™s kidney to deal with poverty is just a phone call away.

Contador Harrison