All rights reserved. Albino children play under mosquito netting inside a dormitory of the Kabanga Protectorate Center, housed in a walled compound for the Kabanga Primary School, in Kabanga, Tanzania. In his rural Tanzania hometown, some encouraged Torner's parents to poison him, saying an albino baby was a curse. Today, Torner drives the streets of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city, in a Nissan X-Trail with tinted windows to hide his white skin. He says the threat of violence is still real and that, as an albino, "society doesn't see you as a human being.

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All rights reserved. Albino children play under mosquito netting inside a dormitory of the Kabanga Protectorate Center, housed in a walled compound for the Kabanga Primary School, in Kabanga, Tanzania. In his rural Tanzania hometown, some encouraged Torner's parents to poison him, saying an albino baby was a curse.

Today, Torner drives the streets of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city, in a Nissan X-Trail with tinted windows to hide his white skin. He says the threat of violence is still real and that, as an albino, "society doesn't see you as a human being. Crime statistics back up his fears. Since , a string of murders has left 72 Tanzanian albinos dead.

The killings are believed to have been motivated by a lucrative trade in albino body parts, which some Africans believe possess magical powers. Last month, a United Nations report on albino persecution put Tanzania at the top of a list of African nations—mostly in East Africa—where albinos are targeted for murder. The Tanzanian government has taken some steps in the wake of the killing spree, opening shelters for albino children in some parts of the country and commissioning task forces to investigate albino killings.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete appointed the country's first albino member of parliament in But many in the albino community, along with human rights groups and the United Nations, have criticized Tanzania's government for failing to prosecute those responsible for albino killings and for dragging its feet on the few cases that have actually made it to court.

Only five of the six dozen albino murders in Tanzania cited by the UN report have led to successful prosecutions. He and other activists say the ongoing violence and uncertainty about the perpetrators has brought the plight of Tanzania's albinos, which was never easy, to a new low. Though albinism occurs around the world, it is most prevalent in Africa.

The World Health Organization reports that as many as one in a thousand people are albino among certain African ethnic groups. Gauging the size of Tanzania's albino population is difficult, and estimates vary wildly.

The government has undertaken a national survey of albinos but has not released its findings. Albino advocacy groups put the number somewhere above ,, out of a total population of roughly 48 million people.

The UN report says simply that there are tens of thousands of albinos in Africa. They suffer from a genetic condition that deprives their skin, hair, and eyes of melanin, making albinos vulnerable to the sun and to bright light. Almost all albinos suffer from poor eyesight and are prone to skin cancer.

There is no cure, and though the U. National Institutes of Health says that albinism doesn't usually affect life span, albino activists in sub-Saharan Africa say their countries' generally poor health care systems often delay cancer diagnosis and treatments, resulting in early death. For an albino baby to be born, both parents must carry the gene for it.

In parts of Tanzania and other parts of Africa, however, the science is beside the point. Long-standing traditions hold that albinos are ghosts who are cursed but whose body parts can ward off bad luck and bring wealth and success.

The superstitions are reinforced by witch doctors, who are still popular in Tanzania and across Africa, even in top socioeconomic ranks. The false beliefs are thought to be especially strong in the Lake Zone, a populous area in Tanzania's northwest that is a staging ground for huge fishing and mining industries. Some miners from the region are known to use albino body parts as talismans, burying them where they're drilling for gold, while some fishermen weave albino hair into their nets. Kwegyir, Tanzania's first albino MP.

With the body parts believed to be fetching tens of thousands of dollars on the black market, the trade is thought to be driven by the wealthiest members of society. Kabendera, who has covered the killings for Tanzanian newspapers and has helped produce a documentary about the issue, says that even politicians are thought to be complicit in the murders. As a child growing up in rural western Tanzania, Kabendera remembers an albino auto mechanic whom he and his friends would jeer at as the mechanic walked to work each morning.

Because many Africans believe that albinos are ghosts who are immune to death and eventually just vanish, the mechanic's disappearance didn't raise eyebrows in Kabendera's small town. Years later, after learning about albino persecution, Kabendera remembered the incident: "I think he was killed.

Explanations for the paltry number of persecutions of albino killers speak to some of Tanzania's broader problems: an overburdened police force, weak government prosecutors, and police and government corruption. Many here also speak of a society-wide veil of silence around albino violence. But at the end it is said no evidence has been found. Parents will sell their own kids to a witch doctor for body parts. Though anti-albino violence often targets children, those crimes are believed to go mostly unreported.

The UN has also cited reports of law enforcement covering up violent anti-albino crimes and taking bribes from witch doctors. Two spokespeople for the Tanzanian government declined to respond to requests for comment. The year-old former teacher dons an olive green headscarf and a deep green dress and is framed by the Indian Ocean, just on the other side of the street, as she talks.

Nsembo worries that stepped-up law enforcement in the Lake Zone has provoked some from the area to come to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's de facto capital, to go "hunting for albinos. Zakia Matimbwa, a Tanzania Albino Society member who's seated next to her, tells of a friend who was recently chased by three men through Dar es Salaam before jumping into a bus and then a taxi to escape.

Beyond the spate of attacks, Tanzania's albinos say they suffer from everyday discrimination in schools and workplaces, and in housing. Having albinism, a genetic condition characterized by a lack of pigment in the body, can be a death sentence in Tanzania.

Janet Anatoli, a year-old Tanzanian albino, says teachers in grade school beat her because she couldn't see the chalkboard, due to impaired eyesight caused by her albinism. Many albinos speak of being socially ostracized from a young age and about the toll it takes on their education. I was 12 before I met another albino. Alfred Nabuli, a doctor who helps run an albinism program at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania, says that many albino children aren't sent to school and that many of those who are suffer from poor performance.

The hospital runs a training program to teach albinos tailoring and batik dying, since many don't otherwise go on to vocational schools. Most albinos live in rural Tanzania and work as subsistence farmers, despite the dangerous sun exposure. He wants to see albinos "sent to school, at the front of the class, with more hours with teachers. The hospital is partly government funded, but Torner faults the government for doing little to challenge misconceptions and superstitions about albinism.

What causes albinism? The government should have a public education plan. At the same time, more albino support networks and advocacy groups have sprung up in recent years. The society boasts 13, members, who talk of "coming out" as proud albinos. Another albino organization, Under the Same Sun , launched five years ago, is headed in Tanzania by the BBC journalist who broke the story about albino killings in The group helps finance a lab at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center that recently started manufacturing a sunscreen—the first produced in Tanzania—intended to help albinos ward off skin cancer.

The medical center also does regular outreach to albinos in the region, focusing on cancer prevention by promoting long sleeves, sunscreen, and early detection of potentially cancerous skin lesions. Nabuli says the program has helped drive down the number of albino cancer patients in the area.

Kwegyir says her appointment as an MP has "exposed my advocacy work to those responsible for making laws," citing a law protecting albinos from workplace discrimination. That same year was when Tanzania elected its first albino MP. But the law, like many in Tanzania, doesn't appear to be enforced.

The government task forces on albinism, for their part, haven't gone anywhere. And on the medical front, Nabuli notes that there are just ten dermatologists operating in the country, limiting advances in albino medical care. The first elected albino MP here, meanwhile, has said that he has fears for his safety, after getting a tip that a group with military training was after him. Read Caption. By Dan Gilgoff , National Geographic. Part of our weekly "In Focus" series—stepping back, looking closer.

People have been trying to kill Josephat Torner since the day he was born. Kabendera says many victims of albino killings are children, a fact noted in the UN report. Friends, neighbors, and even family members often refuse to identify attackers. Photograph by Jacquelyn Martin, AP.

There are some other signs of progress for Tanzania's albinos. Continue Reading.


Daily coronavirus briefing

Murders of people with albinism are a recently emerging human rights issue in Africa, particularly Tanzania. Thus far, public debates about albino killings in Tanzania and other African countries have been dominated by media reports rather than academic writing. This paper presents the findings of a content analysis of Swahili and English Tanzanian media reports published between and on albinism and albino murders in Tanzania, and the diverse activities that have unfolded in response to these attacks. Using a human rights framework, the article explores these responses from a social work perspective. It finds that interventions are often framed with reference to African conceptions of humanness. These conceptions are found to be compatible with notions of human rights as relational, in which the various rights and responsibilities of different members of society are seen as interconnected. In practice however, some interventions have resulted in trade-offs between competing rights, causing further harm to victims and their families.


Tanzania albino murders: 'More than 200 witchdoctors' arrested

Persecution of people with albinism sometimes abbreviated PWA [1] is based on the belief that certain body parts of albinistic people can transmit magical powers. Such superstition is present especially in some parts of the African Great Lakes region, it has been promulgated and exploited by witch doctors and others who use such body parts as ingredients in rituals, concoctions and potions with the claim that their magic will bring prosperity to the user muti or medicine murder. As a result, people with albinism have been persecuted, killed and dismembered, and graves of albinos dug up and desecrated. At the same time, people with albinism have also been ostracised and even killed for exactly the opposite reason, because they are presumed to be cursed and bring bad luck. The persecutions of people with albinism take place mostly in Sub-Saharan African communities, especially among East Africans.


Ending albino persecution in Africa

A teenage albino boy has reportedly been killed and dismembered in Burundi. Previous albino killings in the African country have been linked to people practising witchcraft. In a five-year-old albino girl was kidnapped from her home by gunmen. Officials believe killings are carried out by local residents who work with witch doctors in neighbouring Tanzania, where 53 albino people have been killed since for their body parts. There are around , albino people living in Tanzania.

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