KENYA: Sex-trafficked women and girls also vulnerable to organ trafficking

Gitonga Njeru – WNN  Features

Somali women refugees at Kenya refugee camp
Somali women entering Kenya via refugee camps are exceptionally vulnerable to human trafficking, including sex-trafficking and organ trafficking. Image: Isani Yardim Vakfi/IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation Turkey

(WNN) NAIROBI:  With the highest rate of human trafficking in East and Central Africa, several nongovernmental organizations in Kenya are now under investigation by INTERPOL , the world’s largest international police organization, with 188 member countries. The Interpol Sub-regional Bureau for Eastern Africa is based in Kenya’s capital in Nairobi.

Young women as well as girls who are trafficked can also become a living supply for human body organ transplants.

“Trafficking in human beings for the purpose of using their organs, in particular kidneys, is a rapidly growing field of criminal activity,” says INTERPOL. “In many countries waiting lists for transplants are very long, and criminals have seized this opportunity to exploit the desperation of patients and potential donors,” continues Interpol.

The trail of corruption in Kenya may also reveal human trafficker’s collusion with Kenyan authorities which may include the police and intelligence, as well as the judiciary. This alleged collusion may enable the illegal industry to grow as it goes ‘unchecked’ inside the country.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most prevalent destinations for trafficked organs is Western Europe and the United States. These destinations have the highest number of  patients waiting for a new kidney, liver, heart or pancreas.

Organizations currently under investigation are based in Kenya’s capital Nairobi and in Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city. For legal reasons the organizations cannot be named since investigations are ongoing and there are pending court cases.

Investigations are also revealing that young girls under the age of 16 have been trafficked to Europe and the America’s.

“Victims are often misinformed about the medical aspects of the organ removal and deceived about the sums they will receive. Their health, even life, is at risk as operations may be carried out in clandestine conditions with no medical follow-up,” continues INTERPOL.

A growing number of naïve young women, who’s families are tricked by traffickers into thinking they will have a better life once they are in their respective western countries, can find themselves trapped inside an illegal organ ‘donation’ crime ring as their own organs are removed without their consent.

While many are trafficked for commercial-sex-work or for work as domestic household servants, a growing number of women are trafficked into and out of the Kenya for other purposes.

With the growing global rise of diabetes, along with the damage the disease can create in the kidneys, the demand for kidney transplants is on the increase. Currently Kenya has over six million diabetics and over 2 million people in need of kidney transplants.

Global organ trafficking is not something new.

“Organ trafficking appears to be occurring as flagrant and direct violations of the law of many countries with a flourishing of broker nations, intermediary brokers and corporations,” said the World  Health Organization (WHO) in 2003. “The consequences are not merely for individuals; trafficking also has major “social, economic, medical and  political” repercussions for involved countries,” continues the WHO.

Organizations in Kenya currently under the attention of INTERPOL are also being investigated on matters relating to local kidnappings of young women and girls who have allegedly been taken to backstreet Kenyan clinics in order to remove their internal body organs, such as their kidney and/or liver.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) is also investigating over 15 Kenyan based organizations involved in collusion with the illegal practice. Investigations are also looking into the misuse of donor money which has been connected to human trafficking.

“It is a shame that organizations that are supposed to protect the voiceless are now abusing their rights,” said Omar Hassan, a commissioner with KNHCR. “Many senior Non Governmental Organization officials have become wealthy over a short period of time and cannot account for their wealth,” he outlines. In 2011 KNHCR has been receiving international acclaim in its efforts to fight justice.

Even though KNHCR has been active over the last year in exposing human traffickers, many obstacles have also been in the way. Individuals inside Kenya who are immune to legal accountability, despite the new 2010 Kenya constitution, are still part of the norm.

While the majority of women who enter Kenya with human traffickers are brought into the country for sex purposes, a growing number are entering the country largely to donate internal organs for what could be considered ‘a throw away fee.’ Some of the most unfortunate women are not paid anything for their contribution and only left for dead.

A percentage of these ‘donations’ come through backstreet clinics in Nairobi and Mombasa. The illegal procedure comes with many dangers. Unethical doctors involved in the organ trade are often short on proper or adequate training with safe transplant medical procedure.

Kidneys and pancreas are the most common human organs illegally transplanted. Illegal heart and corneal transplants are also found in Kenya.

Today a Kidney transplant in a well respected Kenyan hospital can cost as much as $20,000. But a poor South East Asian immigrant in Kenya can receive just $650 in a backstreet clinic in Nairobi for a donated kidney. In South Africa the price is much higher. Someone interested in selling their organs can be paid up to $20,000 or more to ‘donate’ a kidney in a public hospital.

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