black+albino“The mistaken belief that albino body parts have magical powers has driven thousands of Africa’s albinos into hiding, fearful of losing their lives and limbs to unscrupulous dealers who can make up to $75,000 selling a complete dismembered set.

Mary Owido, who lacks pigment that gives color to skin, eyes and hair, says she is only comfortable when at work or at home with her husband and children.”

Something as tragic and bizarre as this sounds like something out of a horrific science fiction tale, but this isn’t fiction.  It’s reality for people living within certain parts of Eastern Africa.

AP reports that 44 albinos have been killed in Tanzania, while 14 more have been slaughtered in Burundi. At least 10,000 have been displaced or gone into hiding since the killings began, according to a report released this week by the International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies. East Africa’s latest albino murder happened in Tanzania’s Mwanza region in late October, when albino hunters beheaded 10-year-old Gasper Elikana and chopped off his leg, the report said. The killing left Elikana’s father, who tried to defend his son, seriously injured.

True to our nature as humans, it’s almost impossible to resist the disparagement of those who appear different from us. The report goes on to explain that in many regions of the vast continent, African albinos are severely chastised and endure discrimination and segregation through their life span.

It is being said that the surge in the use for ‘albino parts’ exists mainly in Tanzania where witch doctors utilize them as some sort of good luck charm, as stated by the International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies.

The Federation report also claims that the market for albino parts exists mainly in Tanzania, where a complete set of body parts — including all limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose — can sell for $75,000. Wealthy buyers use the parts as talismans to bring them wealth and good fortune.

“Albinism is one of the most unfortunate vulnerabilities,” said International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies Secretary General Bekele Geleta.”  And it needs to be addressed immediately at an international level.

Tragically, AP states that almost 90 percent of albinos living in the region were raised by single mothers, because the fathers believed their wives were having affairs with white men. One such abandoned albino said, “When I was born my father said his family tree doesn’t have such children and left us.”

“Some African communities believe that albinos are harbingers of disaster, while others mistakenly think albinos are mentally retarded and discourage their parents from taking them to school, saying it’s a waste of money. Due to a lack of education, many albinos are illiterate and are forced into menial jobs, exposing them to the sun and skin cancer. Those who manage to finish school face discrimination in the work place and are never considered for promotions.”

This reality sounds more like a nightmare, but there is always hope for positive change. Visit IFRC for more information on how you can help foster it.

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