Albino Tanzanians Face Great Risk With Little Protection

Tanzania has one of the world's highest albinism rates. However, people there who have the condition fear for their lives.
Posted at 9:17 PM, Feb 23, 2015

"He totally cut off this arm and gave it to the man with him. I was being slaughtered like a goat."

Tanzania has one of the highest albinism rates in the world. And in superstitious east Africa, there are a lot of myths about the condition.

Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said"Some believe children with albinism are a potential source of misfortune or proof that wives have been unfaithful. The frequent result is the abandonment of children and most sporadically infanticide."

"People think we do not die. ... People used to call us 'zeru-zeru,' which means ghost," albino rights activists Josephat Torner told RT.

Witch doctors pay for the body parts of people with albinism and use them in potions or as good luck charms. The adults and children who survive attacks live with missing body parts and in constant fear.

It's long been a problem, brought again to light by the discovery of the mutilated body of an albino toddler.

It can be a lucrative business. According to the Red Cross, albino body parts can sell for $600, while an entire body can earn the hunter $75,000 in underground witchcraft markets.

U.N. figures estimate 75 Tanzanians with albinism have been killed since 2000. 

But, according to the BBC, only 10 people have been convicted in their murders. Authorities blame lack of evidence, with many attacks happening in the dark of night.

Under international pressure to do something, Tanzania's government banned witch doctors in January, an effort to stem killings.

But activists say the problem isn't just the witch doctors but the customers seeking them. Considering that $75,000 price tag the Red Cross estimates for a body, it's hard not to suspect the involvement of more powerful figures.

In fact, a recent New York Times report highlighted concerns of increased risk in 2015. And with Tanzania's general elections later this year, candidates and supporters might turn to witch doctors for luck. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.