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Kidney for Bread in oil-rich Iraq

Afif Sarhan, IOL Correspondent

ky131_225374_1_2.jpg

May 12, 2008


BAGHDAD ó Iraq, which has the world's third-biggest oil reserves, is making billions of dollars in oil exerts thanks to record-setting prices. Still, many of its citizens sell parts of their own bodies just to survive.

"I couldnít see my children crying for food and I can not get them at even bread," Ali Hassnawi, a 34-year-old Baghdad resident, told IslamOnline.net.

"One day a friend of mine told me he had sold his kidney and I decided to do the same," he recalled.

"I got $1,500 dollars for it, two months later my wife got a better payment for hers. She got $3,000 because the man who bought it was nearly dying."

Abject poverty in oil-rich Iraq has driven many like Hassnawi and his wife to a growing organs black market, where kidney is the most sought-after.

Prices vary between $500 to $5,000 dollars depending on and urgent the kidney is needed.

According to the Health Ministry, renal disease is common in the country and more than 7,000 Iraqis currently need urgent kidney transplants.

"The lives of many Iraqis are threatened because haemodialysis machine are old and many arenít working properly," stressed Taha Abdel-Rahman, a ministry media officer.

"We have a long list of patients requesting kidneys and in many times when they can get the organ, they are already dead."

Iraq, which is a member of OPEC and has the world's third-biggest oil reserves, earned $38 billion in oil export revenue last year.

For 2008, the country has already raked in $20 billion from oil shipments just through April, according to the US Energy Department.

Catastrophic

Sellers can easily be spotted by relatives of patient at the main gates of hospitals or nearby coffee shops.

Usually a person who works inside the hospital brokers the deal and gets a 10 percent commission.

More than 90 percent of donors since 2003 are from the suburbs of Baghdad and other main cities of Iraq.

Donors are referred to a special committee at Karama hospital that determines their suitability.

But doctors say though they are against organ-buying they cannot prevent it as the donors always register at hospitals as family relatives.

"We have reached a catastrophic situation in Iraq where poor Iraqis sell their organs to survive," says a renal surgeon at Karama Hospital, requesting anonymity for security reasons.

"In one side we are happy to know that we are saving lives, however, it is hard to know that it is for money and not for love of fellow humans," he added.

"I was once forced to refuse to operate on a kid after I found out that the donor, a 12-years-old child, was being forced by his father who had sold his sonís kidney for $4,000 dollars."

Local police have reported discovering many dead bodies lacking kidney or corneas.

Investigations have shown that a mafia is working with help from some doctors who take out such organs from recently killed civilians.

"The situation is delicate and we are running a thorough investigation to catch those criminals and set free doctors who are being forced to do illegal work," said Lt. Col. Abdul Jabbar, head of the Crime Investigation Department (CID).

"Such organs are taken out from Iraq for neighboring countries where they are sold for huge sums of money."

A World Health Organization (WHO) official in Iraq pressed for punishing those marketing organs.

But he admitted that a country like Iraq, which suffers a so serious security situation, can not possibly control such an issue.

"People might say that it is illegal but we are just trying to save our lives," says Abu Ahmed, 56, who recently had a kidney transplanted from a seller in Baghdad.

"It is easy to say that it is forbidden while their health is good and they are not at the risk of losing their lives any minute for not having a proper renal system," he fumed.

"I have bought a kidney for $4,000 dollars from someone who was offering outside the hospital. I was in a critical health condition and my family did all it can to find the appropriate donor. I donít regret what I did and would do it again if necessary," insists Abu Ahmed.

"They wanted to sell and I wanted to save my life. It was a good bargain and both of us left hospital with something to survive, a new kidney for me and money to feed his children."


:: Article nr. 43991 sent on 13-may-2008 19:19 ECT

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