Organ traffickers target Nepal's poorest

In desperation, Parajuli accepted the trafficker's offer of 100,000 rupees (USD 1,400) and travelled to India to have the organ removed -- a decision he now bitterly regrets.

"I didn't get paid until we got back to Nepal, and then only around a third of what I'd been promised," the 36-year-old told AFP in his home village of Jyamdi, around 30 miles (50 kilometres) east of the capital Kathmandu.

"I lost my farm anyway, and if I'd known then what I know now, there's no way I would have sold my kidney." Parajuli, whose family abandoned him after he lost all his property, looks frail and haggard. Now a day labourer, he said he finds heavy work difficult.

"I occasionally feel the pain on the side," he said, pointing to the six-inch (15 cm) scar on his right side.

Under Nepalese law, kidney transplants are allowed only if the organ is donated by a blood relative or spouse. But India's laws are more lax, allowing a non-relative to donate an organ "out of affection", subject to the approval of a medical committee -- a checking process which can often be circumvented.

Everyone knows someone who has given up a kidney in Jyamdi, one of a cluster of impoverished villages in Nepal that have become a centre for the traders because of the proximity to Kathmandu and the Indian border.

Most of the villagers are subsistence farmers, but many cannot produce enough food for the whole year, and are forced to seek work in Kathmandu or neighbouring India.

"The organ traffickers trawl the villages looking for poor donors like Madhab," former village chief Krishna Bahadur Tamang told AFP.

"People here are poor and uneducated so it's easy. But in most cases they get only a tiny fraction of the money they were promised." Some are even lured into India with cover stories, and only told the true purpose of their journey once they are over the border.

That is what happened to Mohan Sapkota, who was initially told he would be paid to accompany a Nepalese kidney patient travelling to India for treatment. He became suspicious when the trafficker told him he would have to undergo a blood test and a health check-up before travelling, but it was only after he arrived in the southern Indian city of Chennai that the true reason emerged.

"I had no money and no property and the trafficker promised to pay for my children's education, so I agreed to give up a kidney," Sapkota, 43, told AFP. "But in the end, all I got was 60,000 rupees."

Sociologist Ganesh Gurung has conducted research into organ trafficking in the district of Kavre, where the villages are located. He says that once they are in India, the victims are even more vulnerable to the traffickers' demands.

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