Poverty drives Iraq organ trade

Organ brokers earning thousands of dollars from desperate Iraqis.

    Organ brokers do their deals outside Baghdad's hospitals [File: GALLO/GETTY] 

    Abject poverty across Iraq is fuelling an illegal trade in human organs.

    Hundreds of people are believed to have sold kidneys and other organs through dealers in the capital, Baghdad, over the last year.

    Karim Hussein made the long journey from Amara, a province in the south of Iraq, to Baghdad because he was desperate for the $3,000 he would get from the sale of a kidney there. 
     
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    "I have taken a loan to build my house," he told Al Jazeera.

    "I thought I would be able to get work in order to be able to pay my debts back, but the daily amount I am getting is not enough to feed my family, I have eight children."

    About 23 per cent of Iraqis live in poverty, meaning that they are forced to survive on $2.2 a day or less, according to government figures.

    Unemployment is also high, with at least 18 per cent of the population out of work, UN and government reports suggest. Unofficial estimates have put the figure as high as 30 per cent.

    The organ brokers who arrange the deals between the desperately poor and those desperate enough to pay to save the life of a loved one, typically congregate around the hospitals.

    At the Al-Khayal private hospital, one of Baghdad's leading clinics specialising in organ transplants, the dealers refused to talk to Al Jazeera.  

    Dealers' profit

    Although Iraqi law allows people to donate their organs, their sale is illegal.

    However, one of their customers said that he had paid more than $15,000 to one of the dealers outside the hospital.

    "[The kidney] cost us more than $15,000. Most of it went to dealers who take two thirds of the amount and only one third went to the donor"

    Sadik Hamza

    "I got a kidney for my cousin through dealers outside the hospital, Sadik Hamza said.

    "It cost us more than $15,000. Most of it went to dealers who take two-thirds of the amount and only one-third went to the donor.

    "The government should do something to stop them."

    Dr Walid Al-Khayal, the owner and chief surgeon of the Baghdad clinic, said that it is impossible for them to verify whether the donor and the recipient have reached a financial deal for the organ they are transplanting.

    "We check the donor’s kidneys to see if they are functional and have no disease, and that he can afford to donate one of them," he said.

    "Then we send them to the health ministry for compatibility, we simply can't tell whether they are donating them or they are selling them for certain amount of money."

    The majority of customers buying the organs are other Iraqis, but with news of the growing market spreading across the region, there have been reports of people travelling from across the Middle East to secure an organ.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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