My recent article titled, ‘Selling kidneys now easier than finding jobs in Uganda’, caused quite a stir among the Ugandan citizenry. Since its publication in these pages, I have received multiple messages and phone calls from people, some known while others unknown to me, requesting all sorts of information regarding kidney harvesting.
Some of the most intriguing reactions came from those Ugandans who called and messaged me enquiring about my willingness to buy, or find a buyer for their kidneys. One of them, who identified herself as a university student, explained in great detail about how she doesn’t have any hopes of finding a job after completing her studies. “But with the $20,000 obtained from the sale of one of my kidneys, I can start a business”, so she said.
Another Ugandan, interestingly laboured to explain how he could easily mobilize people from vulnerable communities such as Boda Boda riders, to participate in the kidney selling trade. As a broker, he intimated that such a business would be a great deal, with abnormal profits, as there would be many willing sellers.
For starters, I’m not a kidney dealer, neither do I know anybody who participates in the trade. My ultimate goal of penning that article was to highlight how economic hardships currently faced by Ugandans, especially the young people, have pushed them to the limits, including selling their kidneys, all for survival.
However, the people’s reactions to the said article were a sad reminder of the economic state of our country. I truly condone with all those currently experiencing difficulties – financial, emotional or otherwise – and I pray for a better a future ahead. But never in my mind, would I advocate for kidney selling, unless if it is extremely necessary.
I am aware that we are probably facing the worst economic crisis in living memory. Far more jobs have been lost in the past 2 years, the economic downturn seems to have wiped away demand for certain types of work, and the jobs available have made income inequality to be worse than it would have been.
I am aware that in many households, happiness has slowly faded into memory. We have more unequal, less vibrant, less productive, poorer, and sicker people than before. And those with wealth have not done enough to protect those without health.
The economic crisis has been further exacerbated by the persistent worldwide shortage of organs for transplantation. Demand for organs significantly outstrips supply.
But with that being said, we don’t have to trade our kidneys for financial gains. We need to find ways of lifting ourselves out of this limbo but using safer and ethically acceptable means – human organs are not a commodity to be bought and sold at will.
I pray that the situation doesn’t get worse than it is in countries such as India and Afghanistan. In the western city of Herat, Afghanistan, the practice is so widespread that a nearby settlement has been bleakly nicknamed “one-kidney village”.
We need to urge our government to stop investing in ‘investors’ and start prioritizing local content. Government must prioritize human welfare and human capital, which can be done by helping individuals to retain employment or acquire the skills they need to find new jobs.
In the end, the question remains whether our policymakers have the will to take such evidence of the pain, despair and scars caused by the economic downturn into account. My greatest fear is that by the time any meaningful action is taken, many Ugandans would have lost their kidneys!
Mr. Mukalazi is the Country Director of
Every Child Ministries Uganda.