Mother offers eye for sale to feed baby

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 May, 2005, 12:00am


Help is pouring in for a poor Bangladeshi woman who put her eye on sale to buy food for her hungry two-year-old daughter.

Shefali Begum placed an unprecedented advertisement in Dhaka's mass-circulation Bengali daily Ittefaq offering to sell one of her eyes. Although there were no takers, newspapers, radio and TV channels went to town with her offer, sparking outrage across the backward Muslim nation and among Bangladeshis living abroad.

According to media reports, the 26-year-old woman lives in grinding poverty in a Dhaka slum after her husband deserted her for another woman.

Ironically, a school teacher advised her to sell off one of her eyes to make ends meet and instructed her how to go about it.

But all hell broke loose after the advertisement was published.

Although there has long been a thriving racket in kidney sales in countries like Bangladesh and India, it was the first time that an eye was for sale.

Her interviews and photographs were splashed in newspapers, shocking readers out of their stupor. Ms Begum said that selling her eye was her last resort because she was illiterate and her search for a job had proved futile.

'I couldn't bear to see my starving child cry for food any more. I am a single mother. My husband doesn't care whether we are alive or dead. So when a teacher suggested that I sell one of my eyes, I fell for the idea,' she said.

'Even if I became blind, I would have had no regrets because I love my daughter more than anything else.'

She is now flooded with offers of help. A social worker is assisting her to open a bank account so she can cash the donor cheques.

An American donor who heard Ms Begum's radio interview wrote that she wanted to help her 'escape dire poverty without having to sell any organ or aspect of her body'.

Analysts say Ms Begum's case symbolises Bangladesh's poverty, which seems to be worsening despite millions of dollars from international aid agencies.

Mustafizur Rahman, a leading eye specialist and adviser to the Bangladesh Ophthalmological Society, has urged the government to make the sale of eyes a criminal offence so it doesn't become a trend like the sale of kidneys.