Prejudice paints a picture of the lives many people living with albinism face in East African country, Tanzania.
While the rest of what is regarded as the normal population in Tanzania enjoys its normal day to day life, people with albinism continue to live in fear despite calls from humanitarian organizations, to the community, to end sorcery-related practices that are at the verge of wiping the special group from the society.
According to medical experts, Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair and/or eyes.
In Tanzania, a country with the highest number of killings and attacks on albinos, it’s believed that albino body parts will bring a person wealth or luck. Other types of attacks reported included rape for healing purposes.
Children are particularly vulnerable as their innocence is highly valued.
Possibly most shockingly, some believe the louder the screams while the limb is removed, the more potent the charm.
The value associated with the body parts has turned the society around and people are willing to pay as much as $3,000 (Ksh300,000) or $4,000 (Ksh400,000) for a limb, or as much as $75,000 – about £50,000 (Ksh7,500,000)- for the ‘full set’, a whole body.
Reports by the Daily Mail, indicate that the greed for money has forced husbands to turn to their wives, parents to their children in a trade that is allegedly fueled by the country’s most powerful people.
One in 1400 Tanzanians are affected by the albinism condition and according to the international media, since people started collecting records of the attacks, there have been 74 killings and 59 survivors of the attacks.
Incredibly, even the dead are not safe — there are records of 16 graves that have been robbed in the recent past.
Locals say there are many cases of attacks that go unrecorded, an indication that the numbers might be higher.
The most recent case recorded is that of a four-year-old baby, Pendo Emmanuelle Nundi, who was abducted from her home in December.
The main suspects in the abduction incident were Baby Pendo’s father and the minor’s uncle. The two were arrested an taken into custody.
Suspicion turned on Pendo’s father after he took half an hour to report the matter — neighbours could have helped him take back his daughter as soon as she was taken.
Despite a Ksh154, 000 (€1330) reward and a promise of swift action from the police, the baby is yet to be found.
There have been several other heartbreaking cases that have been reported including that of Mwigulu Matonange who was attacked when he was 10 years old.
Matonange’s assailants attacked him on his way home from school with a friend. They chopped off his left hand and disappeared into nearby bushes with their ‘gold’.
Matonange couldn’t identify his two attackers as they were total strangers.
“I was held down like a goat about to be slaughtered,” he told IPP Media after the February 2014 attack.
It’s not just parents who have been accused of carrying out the evil acts, spouses are also on the spot.
In 2013, a UN report disclosed that a 38-year-old woman with albinism was attacked with machetes by her husband and four other men in Tanzania.
Her eight-year-old daughter painfully watched her father leave the bedroom carrying her mother’s arm.
Due to fear, some of the albino children in Tanzania don’t attend school.
Albinos who survive the attacks, just like the 38-year-old woman, painfully live with permanent scars on their body having lost their arms, legs or any other body parts. These people rarely get justice.
According to Peter Ash, a Canadian who set up the charity Under the Same Sun in 2009, the only people who have been convicted are the witch doctors and the hired killers, and not the wealthy businessmen who desperately pay for the body parts.
“But they would never name the customer – even when the witch doctor is given the death sentence. Never has a customer been named, ” Peter says.
It’s such injustice that has led to rising of people like, Josephat Torner, albino campaigner, who have come out to risk their lives to champion for the rights of people like Baby Pendo, Matonange and the albino population at large.
“The big fishes are behind the issue. It has been really a big discussion. If I say big fish, or big people, it is those who have enough resources, enough money.
“People sell the body parts for high prices. So it is not really small fish behind it. It could be politicians. It could be those people, ” Josephat, who is also living with albinism says.
Since 2012, Josephat has been risking his life, to go into remote villages to explain to people they are not ghosts, but human beings whose bodies will not bring luck.
He hopes that by working with charity organisations and journalists, his teachings will influence the society and push the government into action as more needs to be done to end the misplaced believes.
He strongly hopes that Tanzania’s albinos will one day be able to ‘live like other people.’