Bangladesh’s illegal kidney trade booms as donors turn brokers

Kalai: After years of crippling debt, Bangladeshi villager Rawshan Ara decided to follow in her family’s footsteps — and sell a kidney on the black market to raise cash.

Like many of her neighbours in this poor farming area, the 28-year-old easily found a local broker and quickly became a victim of Bangladesh’s thriving but illegal organ trade.

The mother-of-one insists her sister and brother-in-law warned her against having the surgery in February, after suffering complications from their own operations two years ago.

“But I was tired of poverty,” Ara said in Kalai district, which has become a hotspot for the racket.

“My husband is perennially sick. My daughter’s education became costly. I went to Dhaka to be a maid or garment worker. But the wages were abysmal,” she said, declining to give the name of her broker.

Police, however, tell a different story. They suspect the relatives talked her into going ahead with the operation — part of a growing web in Kalai of donors who turn brokers, taking a commission for anyone they successfully recruit.

“This year alone 40 people from Kalai have sold their kidneys,” local police chief Sirajul Islam told AFP, and 200 villagers since 2005.

Another 12 villagers are currently missing, suspected to have travelled across the nearby border to India to hospitals to have the operations.

“Those who have sold kidneys have themselves turned brokers and agents and became part of this huge organ trade network,” Islam said.

“These agents first target their families and relatives and then villagers.”

Some eight million Bangladeshis suffer from kidney disease, mostly because of high rates of diabetes, and at least 2,000 need transplants annually.

But donation is only legal between living relatives, resulting in a chronic shortage of kidneys for transplant.