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Organ harvesting syndicates prey on desperate Kenyans

Publish date: 01 April 2024
Issue Number: 1070
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Health

Joseph Japiny, a resident of Homa Bay County in western Kenya secured his motorbike taxi and nearly $1 000 by selling his kidney. The Daily Maverick reports that Japiny said he was introduced to a broker recruiting young men into the kidney-harvesting underworld that operates between Eldoret, Busia and Nairobi. After agreeing to the procedure, he received food and accommodation, and underwent regular blood, urine and faecal tests for three weeks. He then had his kidney removed at a nearby clinic. He then had regular check-ups by a doctor from India who did not speak Swahili. The illicit enterprise involves a network of actors who exploit poverty and unemployment among young men in their mid-20s and early 30s to meet the black-market demand outside the country. It also points to significant legal shortcomings in protecting vulnerable young people. A broker who spoke to Enact on condition of anonymity said he had recruited over 100 young men in Oyugis in the past year. Most were from low-income families, and many had not been educated beyond high school. They wanted capital to start their own businesses. While many see this as an opportunity to support themselves and their families, they are not necessarily told of the dangers, which include high blood pressure and reduced kidney function that could lead to kidney failure.

Some have complained of constant pain at the surgery site, while others say they struggle with long-term back pain. The youths are lured by the prospect of cash, with some being paid as much as $5 000 for a kidney. One kidney on the international illicit market costs on average $85 000. This network of local and international criminal actors goes largely unchecked. DM notes that the Kenyan Health Act of 2017 provides for the donation of kidneys to relatives or for scientific purposes, within strict guidelines. But the Act doesn’t explicitly outlaw the illicit trade in which people agree to sell their organs – a loophole that aids illegal harvesting, storage and transportation of kidneys. The Health Act imposes a fine of $65 700 or a prison term of up to 10 years, or both, for organ harvesting or trafficking. However, it is impossible to police organ harvesting when there is no existing legal provision for acts involving people willing to sell their kidneys for monetary gain. 

Full Daily Maverick report

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