Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 1211 EAT on Thursday 9th June 2022.
The State House Health Monitoring Unit (SHMU) has cleared Mubende Regional Referral hospital of allegations of kidney harvesting. This follows investigations into allegations that the hospital had illegally removed a kidney from Peragiya Mulajijimaana , 20, a resident of Lwemiggo village in Mubende district who had gone for an operation to remove the uterus due to persistent bleeding.
In the findings, SMHU, says that their investigations show that Mulajijimaana was born without the right kidney, a condition referred to as renal agenesis in medical circles. Dr Warren Naamara, the head of the SMHU says that examinations found only one scar of the lower abdominal incision, which was done to remove the patient’s uterus.
This patient did not have her kidney harvested, it was an abnormal congenital abnormality, so the patient was never harvested of her kidney. In order to harvest a kidney you have to have a specific area where you cut, you just don’t cut anywhere. So the examination found there were no scars other than the lower abdominal incision which is called the bikini incision. This is usually done for mothers to deliver or to remove uteruses when they are sick. The incision to remove a kidney is way up on the flanks,” said Naamara.
Naamara concluded that the “current hype about organ harvest and trade is much more of a sensation than a reality. Hitech facilities and theatres in addition to high skilled professionals is needed for any organ transplant.”
On April 24, 2022, Mulajijimaana was rushed to Mubende hospital after her placenta failed to come out after giving birth with the help of a traditional birth attendant. Doctors at the hospital told her she needed to have an operation to remove the uterus, which was bleeding profusely.
She was discharged on April 29 after a successful surgery. However, three days later, she developed stomach complications and went for an ultrasound scan at Mubende Imaging Center. The scan done on May 4 showed that her right kidney was missing. When her story went viral after being run on May 26, the hospital director wrote to the permanent secretary of the ministry of Health refuting the allegations and attached all the medical forms relating to her treatment at the hospital.
Police referred Mulajijimaana and her family to Mulago National Referral hospital where an abdominal scan was done by a radiologist Shafik Kikomeko confirming that she has no kidney on the right and the left kidney is enlarged. SHMU dispatched a team led by Dr Stephen Ataro Ayella and some medical staff to assist the police to find out the truth behind the case.
They examined the incisions on Mulajijimaana ‘s body where they found a single scar on the lower body without any other sign of being operated on to remove her kidney. According to Ayella, an epidemiologist working with the SHMU, 1 in 10,000 people in Uganda may be born missing a kidney due to congenital abnormalities whereas worldwide it is a ratio of 1 in 4,500 cases globally, especially among boys.
He says that in May alone, two cases of people born with a single kidney were discovered. One is a 51-year-old lady found by the scan at Mubende Imaging Center and the other is a dead man whose post mortem revealed he was born with one kidney.
“While investigating this case, we come across two other cases, the same clinic Imaging Centre Mubende which did the scan had a 51-year-old lady whose records are retrieved as found to be having only one kidney. And then a postmortem report done by police in the month of May in Kasese on an accident victim revealed one kidney – nothing removed. This is somebody who fell and died with the body intact,” he said.
This comes at a time when there are several allegations and cases of illegal organ harvesting in the country and immigrant labourers in Arab countries. One of the prominent cases of unlawful organ transplant involves four Ugandan women whose organs were removed while in Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Two of the victims including Milly Namazzi lost their lives after their kidneys were removed. Namazzi was contracted to work in Saudi Arabia but was trafficked to Egypt from where her kidneys were allegedly removed.
Judith Nakintu, another Ugandan was brought back to Uganda in a dire state with a missing kidney. In February this year, the government constituted a joint team of investigators from various security agencies, and immigration to probe the increasing claims of illegal organ harvesting.