Desperate Tanzanians selling their organs in a secret illegal trade, with a kidney selling for TShs 80m approximately to $38,000 US.
The illegal trade is being done openly, with several desperate Tanzanians publicly advertising the sale of their body organs on popular online advertising sites.
One Tanzanian posted an online advertisement saying: "Kidney for sale, by owner," with a listed price of Shs80 million for the organ.
"Just out of economic hardships, I failed to pay school fees and all things are falling apart. So I better sell my one figo (kidney)," said one organ seller, who also provided his contact numbers.
A weeklong investigation by The Guardian on Sunday has revealed that several Tanzanian have turned to the black market to buy or sell human organs as demand for transplants outstrips supply.
Some of the organ sellers contacted by The Guardian on Sunday said they had received response on their advertisements and were waiting for buyers with the right price to do business.
Since organ transplants have not been traditionally conducted in Tanzania, the general understanding is that the buyers would pay for the full costs of transport to and from India for both the donor and organ recipient where the surgery would be conducted.
Demand for organ kidney transplants is especially high in Tanzania, with scores of patients requiring treatment.
According to the president of the Nephrology Society of Tanzania, Dr Onesmo Kisanga, at least 1,500 people are diagnosed with kidney infections in the country every year, with the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) alone receiving around 10 patients a week.
MNH, the country's largest referral hospital, is next month expected to start offering kidney transplant services for the very first time.
“There are no liver, kidney or cornea transplant services offered locally. Patients have in the past been taken to India, which was very expensive,” MNH's spokesman Aminiel Algaesha told The Guardian on Sunday.
Andrew Charles, a 29-year-old university student who has advertised his kidney for sale to the highest bidder on a website, told The Guardian on Sunday that he has been forced to put his organ on the market after wallowing in abject poverty for over 7 years.
The first born in a family of four, Andrew said his father passed away in 2010, making life hard for himself and his siblings.
“I am ready for surgery even right now ... I know it’s wrong, but economic hardships have forced me to do this,” he said.
“You just don't know what I've been through ... let it remain a secret between me and my God.”
Andrew said he completed his secondary education in 2001, but could not go for further studies because his family could not pay tuition fees for him.
A secret trade
At the age of 17, he got odd jobs and even started to work as porter for tourists scaling Mount Kilimanjaro."After two years, I decided to quit the job as a porter at Mount Kilimanjaro because of chest problems due to the cold weather up the mountain and altitude sickness," he said.
Andrew said he later found temporary work at the Ngorongoro Crater assisting a team of wildlife researchers and then went to Merelani to work at a small-scale tanzanite mine.
"At all these places I couldn't get a stable job and thus failed to succeed in life," he said.
He later got enrolled at a university in northern Tanzania as a private candidate, but said he has been struggling to pay tuition fees because he was not lucky to get a government scholarship, hence his decision to sell one of his kidneys.
"The decision to sell my kidney is my secret ... none one of my relatives knows about this," he insisted.
Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Dr Hamisi Kigwangalah told The Guardian on Sunday that Tanzania has no law to regulate trade in human organs.
"We have a national guideline that allows free donation of a kidney to one's relative only,” he said.
Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that about 4,533 Tanzanians died of kidney failure in 2011 alone.
The Guiding Principles on Human Organ Transplantation of the WHO state that the commercialization of human organs is "a violation of human rights and human dignity."
However, the growing demand for kidney transplants in Tanzania and the fact that human beings can survive with one kidney has convinced some people to sell their organs.
Medical experts warn that a kidney is not a spare organ. Even years after the operation, kidney donors or sellers suffer from the operation’s negative effects on their bodies, minds and lives.
The invisible and long-term medical, psychological and social consequences of selling a kidney may include chronic pain, depression and suicide, self-hatred, distorted body image, a sense of bodily emptiness and evacuation (the body without organs), anger, regret and isolation, according to medics.
Economically, kidney sellers are said to be even worse off after selling their organs. Since most sellers are poorly educated, unskilled labourers who rely on the strength of their bodies, many are excluded from their previous work that required them to lift heavy objects, to leap and jump, to be unconcerned about the effects of ordinarily rigorous work on their bodies.
The illegal trade in human organs is also common in other parts of Africa such as South Africa and Nigeria and elsewhere in the world, including Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
In some countries, underground markets run by organ brokers and kidney hunters exploit the desperation of both buyers and sellers.