There is nothing as discomforting as walking in the streets with fear that the next turn you take might be the last one, that the immediate door neighbor or a distant cousin might sellout your safe haven, leading to your death.
But these are real fears that people with albinism have to face not just every day, but every minute of their lives.
They are not assured of life and have to leave far away from home or hidden from the public, lest they become the subsequent formula in some witch doctor's concoction.
The myths surrounding albinos in some parts of Africa is strong and has led to the abduction and killing of innocent people in the name of ‘healing’ or ‘cleansing’.
While in Malawi, their bones are believed to contain gold, in Tanzania, they are the ‘cure’ that business and politicians seek from witch doctors as their body parts are believed to bring wealth or good luck. More bizarre is the fact that some men believe that sleeping with an albino woman can cure them of HIV.
Consequently, albinos are not safe. Children and women are even in more danger. A new report titled “We are not animals to be hunted or sold” by Amnesty International indicates that children and women are increasingly being kidnapped and killed and their body parts sold on the black market. The report based on interviews and research in Malawi details the horrors of people with albinism in the southern Africa country.
According to Ikponwosa Ero, an expert on albinos for the United Nation’s Human Right’s Council, said in April that the situation in Malawi "constitutes an emergency, a crisis disturbing in its proportions."
"Even in death, they do not rest in peace as their remains are robbed from graveyards," she said adding that Malawi’s 10,000 albinos face “total extinction” if nothing is done.
Ms Ero, herself an albino, said that the activities could be economically motivated as the country is one of the “world’s poorest and the sale of body parts of persons with albinism is believed to be very lucrative.”
“Thousands of people with albinism are at severe risk of abduction and killing by individuals and criminal gangs in Malawi, where their body parts are allegedly sold for use in rituals. Graves of people with albinism have also been targeted by criminals who remove bones in order to sell them,” Amnesty report read in part.
In most countries where albinos are targeted, their rare genetic condition is not viewed as is, but rather as a business venture that could bring returns to those who engage in the absurd activity of abduction and killing.
Often, they are referred to in derogatory terms including “deal,” “millions,” “money,” according to the report by Amnesty.
Up to 18 people with albinism, a hereditary condition that causes an absence of pigmentation in the skin, have been killed in different parts of Malawi since November 2014. The London-based rights group said that five are still missing after being abducted. The actual number is, however, much higher, Amnesty noted, because many cases go unreported due to the secretive nature of ritual practices in rural areas.
Body parts including limbs, ears, nose and ears or a “full set” sold for $75,000 in Tanzania in 2009.
The report said that the Malawian authorities have failed to help the victims in the country.
“Malawian authorities have dismally failed them, leaving this population group at the mercy of criminal gangs who hunt them down for their body parts,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for Southern Africa.
According to Malawi police, at least 69 crimes against people with albinism were recorded since November 2014, and some 39 cases of illegal exhumation of the bodies of people with the condition.
Amnesty called on Malawi government to put controls that will ensure their protection, including community policing in rural areas.
Image credit: albinism-in-africa.com