Much of Afghanistan’s growing number of destitute people are making desperate decisions as their nation sinks into poverty, with some even taking the drastic step to sell their vital organs.
In the western province of Herat, people in desperate need of money have started risking their lives by selling their kidneys.
The country’s economy was already reeling when the Taliban seized power in mid-August, amid a chaotic withdrawal by US and NATO forces.
The international community froze Afghanistan’s assets abroad and suspended all funding as it was unwilling to work with a Taliban government, given its reputation for brutality during its previous rule 20 years ago.
The consequences have been devastating for a country ravaged by four decades of war, with a lack of jobs and mounting economic challenges that hit the most vulnerable members of society the hardest.
Urologist and kidney transplant surgeon Dr. Nasir Ahmad said he has performed 85 kidney transplant operations in 2021.
He says that with the mutual consent of a kidney donor and the buyer, a complete kidney transplant operation costs around 600,000 Afghans (€ 5,255) to 800,000 Afghans (€ 7,007).
Depending on the blood type, kidneys can cost between 200,000 Afghans (€ 1,751) and 400,000 Afghans (€ 3,503) and hospital, medicine and operating expenses reach another 400,000 Afghans (€ 3,503).
Ahmad adds that many of the people who sell their kidneys are the most vulnerable and struggle to feed their families.
However, doctors warn that those who take such extreme measures could face dire consequences.
Most of the donors who come forward to sell their kidneys come from poor families affected by the devastating economic crisis in Afghanistan, and are unaware of the dangers that the loss of a kidney could bring.
Internal medicine specialist Dr. Ahmad Shekaib said that while people can make short-term financial gains from selling their organs, they are risking their lives.
“Most people who sell their kidneys out of financial trouble will face long-term health problems from missing a kidney. Kidney donation culture is not normal in Afghanistan. Most kidney donors are financially distressed volunteers who sell their kidneys to other people, “said Dr. Shekaib.
In the village of Qudoosabad in the Kohsan district of Herat province, 40-year-old Ghulam Hazrat sold his kidney for 230,000 Afghans (2,014 euros) a month ago to feed his family and pay for a botched trip to enter illegally. They will go looking for a job.
A month after the Taliban returned to power, Hazrat borrowed 20,000 Afghans (175 euros) and paid a smuggler to take him to Iran, where he hoped to find work, but the Iranian authorities arrested him and deported him to Afghanistan.
Upon his return, he felt he had no choice but to sell his kidney to make ends meet for his family.
“I couldn’t go out begging for money, I couldn’t beg. So I decided to go to the hospital and sell my kidney so I could at least feed my children for a while,” Hazrat revealed.
The doctor prescribed a year off to recover from the operation and told him to avoid doing any heavy lifting, but Hazrat isn’t sure what he will do when the money he received for his kidney runs out.
While the United Nations this week announced a $ 5 billion (€ 4.4 billion) appeal to help both Afghanistan and its neighboring countries, much of it to pay for essential workers and humanitarian efforts, ordinary Afghans are surrounded of tough challenges.
Qudoosabad village elder Mir Ahmad said the current situation and the crisis in the country are pushing ordinary Afghans to extremes to survive.
“Most people leave the country fearing for their lives, but some also go in search of work, and when those people cannot reach other countries, they return home and have to pay the money that they had borrowed for your travel expenses. and to do that, they sell their household belongings or sell their kidneys. Some people even decide to sell their children, ”said Ahmad.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism