Albinos in East Africa must be better protected

International Albinism Day (June 13th)

On occasion of the International Albinism Day (June 13th), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) demands better protection for people with albinism in East Africa. "More educational work needs to be done to reduce prejudice against albinos and to stop them from being attacked," said Ulrich Delius, the STP's Africa-consultant, in Göttingen on Friday. In Tanzania, an albino woman was murdered and mutilated on June 12, 2014, because there are people who believed that her limbs would have magical powers. The perpetrators hacked a leg and several fingers off the 40-year-old woman. This was the 73rd murder of a person with albinism in Tanzania since 2000. In the same period, 67 other albinos were attacked in the East African country, but survived.

"These attacks are crimes against humanity. Many people with albinism are so scared that they have not left their homes for years, for fear of being seen in public," said Delius. "Due to the legitimate fear of new assaults, their freedom of movement is systematically limited and their lives become hardly worth living." Recently, the case of a seven-year-old albino boy in the Mara region in Tanzania became known. For fear of attacks, his parents had kept him inside their house since his birth. As a consequence, the boy is now physically handicapped. There are about 200 albinos living in the Mara region. In neighboring Kenya, MPs called on parents of albinos not to hide their children in their houses.

The reason why albinos are repeatedly attacked and mutilated is to be seen in a widespread superstition according to which their limbs can have healing effects and bring wealth. "This superstition can only be curbed by addressing the public with more awareness campaigns." Fishermen on Lake Victoria weave albino hair into their fishing nets to catch more fish – while gold seekers and diamond miners bury albinos' bones as a sacrifice to find rich deposits. They believe that the human remains turn into diamonds. Also, it is said that albino's genitals have potency-enhancing effects, which is why there are repeated cases of mutilation. On the black market, a body part of an albino can bring in up to 2,000 US dollars – and a complete "set" of ears, nose, tongue, genitals and four bones can be sold for about 75,000 US dollars. In total, there are about 17,000 albinos living in Tanzania.

June 13 was declared to be the "International Day of albinism" after the UN Human Rights Council had first adopted a resolution concerning the situation of people with albinism on June 13, 2013.

Ulrich Delius, head of STP's Africa department, is available for further questions: +49 551 49906 27 or afrika@gfbv.de.