Organ trafficking on the rise in post Mubarak Egypt

A tattoo covering a scar on the body of a victim of an illegal kidney harvesting by a gang in Cairo, Egypt. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW |  

The political unrest that rocked Egypt last year seems to have shaken the country's law enforcement apparatus, creating loopholes for organ traffickers.

During that period, cases of organ trafficking of Sudanese refugees and other political asylum seekers in Egypt have gone up .

A report by the Coalition for Organ-Failure Solutions (COFS), a non-profit international health and human rights organisation, indicates that human traffickers in the North African country are increasingly targeting Africans, especially refugees and other immigrants.

The abuses include removal of kidneys either by inducing consent, coercion, or outright theft. In some cases, sex trafficking has been associated with incidents of organ removal.

In the past, a number of reports have suggested an increase in organ trafficking in Egypt, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting in 2010 that the North African nation was one of the world’s “hotspots” for organ trafficking.

Until recently, Egyptian law prohibited organ donation from the deceased so that organ donation was only from the living. This resulted in an unregulated system which has only exacerbated the issue.

Organ donations

Last June saw the new law that banned payment for human organs; it restricted donations from live donors to family members of the fourth degree. As such, foreigners are banned from receiving organ donations and if any removal of a human organ is done without government permission, it is treated as murder in the first degree. Furthermore, transplant procedures for the poor will be funded by the state.

Following January's revolution, the implementation and enforcement of the law has not been a priority, says COFS. Also, it says that “the period of instability in Egypt and throughout the region will allow all forms of human trafficking of to flourish.”

The COFS reports that out of 57 victims identified, 68 per cent were from Darfur in Sudan. Other victims were from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and a few from Jordan, Iraq and Syria.

The total number of victims of organ trafficking in Egypt is estimated to be in the thousands, with Pakistan, China, Colombia, and the Philippines being the other hubs of organ trafficking.

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