News / Africa

Ritual Killings of People With Albinism Increase in Tanzania

FILE - Said Abdallah lost his left hand in a April 10, 2010 attack.
FILE - Said Abdallah lost his left hand in a April 10, 2010 attack.
Lisa Schlein

United Nations human rights officials report a spike in ritual attacks and killings of people with albinism in Tanzania.  They are calling for greater protection for these people who face a dire situation and are extremely vulnerable.  

The U.N. Human Rights Office reports five new attacks against people with albinism occurred over an 11-day period in Tanzania this month.  This, it says, brings the number of attacks since 2000 to 151, including 74 murders.

Albinism is a genetically inherited condition, in which people lack pigmentation.  While it is very rare in most parts of the world, affecting one in 20,000 people, it is quite common in sub-Saharan Africa.  In Tanzania, one in 1,400 people are born with this condition.

U.N. human rights official Alicia Loudono, who has just returned from a mission to Tanzania, says she is very concerned by the marginalization, discrimination and persecution to which people with albinism are subjected in Africa.  She says they are portrayed as ghosts, as devils, as people who bring bad luck, death or sickness.

“The worst form of discrimination is the ritual attacks.  These are rooted in superstition….Body parts of persons with albinism are used for witchcraft purposes.  There is this belief in certain countries that body parts have magical powers and if used in potions produced by witch doctors it will bring wealth and power," said Loudono.

As a result, people with albinism are mutilated for their body parts.  Loudono says a limb can fetch thousands of dollars on the black market.  She says a person who has had an arm or a leg cut off is usually left unattended and bleeds to death.    

Victims who survive usually receive no communal support or legal assistance.  

Non-governmental organizations have documented 328 attacks in 24 different countries since 2000.  They include Burundi, Ivory Coast and Swaziland.  Most attacks occur in rural areas.

Early in 2013, there was a spike in the number of these ritual attacks.  Loudono says on her trip to Tanzania, everyone linked the recent attacks to the presidential election set for October 2015.

“There is this common knowledge of people with albinism, that attacks increase when there is [an] election.  One of the reasons they say is that there are some politicians that use witchcraft for gaining power.  This is part of their belief…for winning elections, for being more rich, etc," she said.

While in Tanzania, Loudono visited several centers for children with special needs where children with albinism are warehoused.  She says these centers were originally intended as temporary, but have now become a long-term solution.

She says the conditions in which these children are kept are appalling.  They are overcrowded and unhygienic, and the children are subject to corporal punishment, threats and sexual abuse.

The worst aspect of these centers, she says, is that these children lose all contact with their families.  

Instead of segregating these children from their communities, she says, the Tanzanian authorities should make every effort to integrate them back into their homes and societies.

 

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs