The practice is also widespread in the countries of China, Pakistan, the Philippines and Colombia according to the World Health Organization
One of the reasons that organ harvesting is prevalent in Egypt is because taking organ's from cadavers or those who just died is against the law in the country.
From this article from IPS, reporter Cam McGrath talks to an Washington based NGO, the Coalition for Organ-Failure Solutions about the situation in Egypt.
Experts say the absence of legislation regulating human organ transplants has made Egypt an international "hotspot" for kidney trafficking. Up to 95 percent of the 3,000 legal kidney transplants per year, and hundreds of illegal ones, involve a commercial transaction.
A nationwide ban on organ transplants from cadavers means all kidneys must be harvested from live donors. Most are sourced from destitute young Egyptians, who are coerced into selling their kidney to pay off debts or meet rising living costs.
"They call them 'commercial living donors', but the name is misleading as really they are more victims than donors," says Kabir Karim, COFS's Egypt programme director.
A kidney can be purchased for as low as 15,000 dollars on Cairo's black market, though the donor only receives about 2,500 dollars of this. The rest goes to hospitals, laboratories and agents.
Brokers lurk in the coffee shops of Cairo slums, targeting the poor. "Over 90 percent of donors don't have a regular job, and are either in debt because of their circumstances, or have gotten married and can't pay the rent," says Amr Mostafa, a field researcher for COFS. "Brokers approach them and promise a way out of debt, if they agree to donate their kidney."
The donors are misled about the risks and talked into taking examinations at hospitals and private labs. The results are used to match donors to clients, often wealthy Gulf Arabs, who use forged documents to circumvent a ban on transplants to unrelated or non-Egyptian recipients.
"If a hospital has its paperwork in order including signed donor consent forms, it can pretty much operate with impunity," a clinic doctor told IPS. Only if a patient dies does it become felony.
About 80 percent of donors suffer deterioration of health after surgery, according to a COFS study. "Most of the time people complain of tiredness," says Karim. "A lot of these donors have a job that requires physical labour, but (after the operation) they get tired quickly and can't do their work. That of course affects their job, and they soon get fired.
"It's a vicious circle for them," he says. "They sell a kidney because they are in debt and spend the money within about six months. They are still in debt, but now they are less capable of working than before, so they are in a worse situation."