Photo posted by Salem and Mohammed on the blog Kuwait Black Market.

This ad appeared on the walls of Kuwait City last week. It might seem surprising but it reveals the extent of a growing trend in private sales of organs in the Gulf state. One of our Observers in the capital phoned the number on the poster for further details.   

The World Health Organisationestimates that around 5% of the yearly 70,000 transplanted organs are traded on the black market. Despite an increase in the number of awareness campaigns over the past few decades, there has not however been an increase in the number of donors. There are thousands of patients on waiting lists around the world. In the US for example, the number of people waiting for an organ has tripled during the past ten years, topping 100,000 in June this year. In the UK there are almost 8,000, and in France, around 5,000.  

Although there is little reliable data on organ trafficking, it is widely accepted that countries such as Brazil, India, Moldova, Romania and the Philippines are major suppliers of organs. In the Middle East, it's Turkey, Egypt, and more recently Iraq and the Palestinian Territories where you're most likely to get hold of an organ. Peddlers tend to target poor districts and slums for donors. A profitable business when those in need, usually from rich countries, are ready to pay a high price for a healthy organ.

Researcher Nancy Scheper-Hughes from the University of California, Berkeley, travelled to Turkey at the beginning of the decade to find out for what price she could sell a healthy kidney. At that time, it was just over 2,000 euros. A kidney in Baghdad can today reach up to €10,100. Meanwhile in Vietnam the going price is €2,600, in Egypt €2,300 and in India, just €675.   

“1,000 dinar for Kuwaitis, 800 for others”

Robert is a Lebanese blogger. He works in an advertising agency in Kuwait City. Last week, he tried to contact the author behind the ad. He prefers to remain anonymous.

I tried to call the number on the poster but nobody answered [Team Observers also tried to contact the author for further information, also in vain]. So I sent him a text to ask how much he was asking for the kidney. ‘How much are you ready to pay?' he replied. ‘The lowest price,' I wrote back. A few minutes later, I got a response: ‘1,000 dinar [2,363 euros] for Kuwaitis, 800 [€1,890] for others'.

When I didn't respond to his offer, he sent me another message. ‘Is it too expensive for you?' I said indeed, I couldn't pay more than 500 dinar [€1,180]. He then lowered his price to 650 dinar [1,535]. 

I sent him another message asking why he was trying to sell his kidney. He said it was for personal reasons. It's so sad. He must be desperate. I told him not to sell it and reminded him that it was illegal. He simply replied ‘Thanks'."