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Organ Bazaar

© Gonçalo Fonseca

As most of the world began to enter lock-down, human traffickers were one of the groups of people that did not stop working, casting a vigilant eye on the effects of the pandemic for the most vulnerable parts of society, warns the UN in a recent report predicting an uptick in trafficking of people.

In India, at least 380 million people are employed in the informal sector in and are now living on whatever meager savings they might have, leaving international organizations afraid of widespread famine. According to the UN, the pandemic has “brought to the forefront the systemic and deeply entrenched economic and societal inequalities that are among the root causes of human trafficking”.

With an impending economic crisis looming, with unemployment and inequality rising, many families, especially day laborers, have run out of choices and are going hungry. Without savings or a social net, some might turn to black markets such as selling organs, in a desperate bid to provide some help to their families. 

It is estimated that 200.000 kidneys are needed every year in India, with changing lifestyles and an inadequate cadaver donation program the main causes of the rising organ demand. Over the years, a sprawling black market and a network of traffickers and doctors have emerged that prey on the poor and destitute. Usually, they target debt-ridden farmers or families in slums that are in dire need of money. If the family is going hungry or need some emergency cash to pay for a medical bill, they don’t have many choices but to sell a kidney.

Organ Bazaar is a 5 months-long investigation that started in 2018 and aims to bring a human face to this underground trade in body parts. From the streets of the southern city of Chennai, the medical capital of India, to the jungles of West Bengal, it explores the reasons why people are driven to selling organs and under which conditions they do it.

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