[Herat-Afghanistan] Selling Kidneys : 'Everything has a value'. The sad truth is Booming Afghan trade in human organs preys on the country's very, very poor.

Amid the bustle of beggars and patients outside the crowded hospital here, there are sellers and buyers, casting wary eyes at one another : The poor, seeking cash for their vital organs, and the gravely ill or their surrogates, looking to buy.

The illegal kidney business is booming in the in the western city of Herat, fueled by sprawling slums, the surrounding land's poverty and unending war, an entrepreneurial hospital that advertises itself as the country's first kidney transplantation center and officials and doctors who turn a blind eye to organ trafficking.

In Afghanistan, as in most countries, the sale and purchase of organs is the illegal, and so is the implanting of purchased organs by physicians. But the practice remains a worldwide problem, particularly when it comes to kidneys, since most donors can live with just one.

''These people, they need the money,'' said Ahmed Zain Faqiri, a teacher seeking kidney for his gravely ill father outside Loqman Hakim Hospital. He was eyed uneasily by a young farmer, Haleem Ahmed, 21, who had heard of the kidney market and was looking to sell after his harvest had failed.

The consequences will be grim for him. For the impoverished kidney seller who recover in frigid, unlit Herat apartments of peeling paint and concrete floors, temporarily delivered from crushing debt but too weak to work, in pain and unable to afford medication, the deal is a portal to new misery.

In one such dwelling, a half-sack of flour and a modest container of rice was the only food  late last month for a family with eight children.

For Loqman Hakim Hospital, transplants are big business. Officials boast that it has performed more than 1,000 kidney transplants in five years, drawing in patients from all over Afghanistan and the global Afghan diaspora.

It offers them bargain-basement operations at one - twentieth the cost of such procedure in the United States, in a city with a ample supply of fresh organs.

Asked if the hospital made good money from the operations, Masoud Ghafoori, a senior finance manager, said. ''You could say that.''

The World Students Society thanks authors Adam Nossiter, Najim Rahim and Kiana Hayeri.


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