WHAT CAUSES ALBINISM

Albinism is a genetically inherited condition in which the body is unable to create enough melanin (pigment) in the skin, hair and eyes.  Albinism results in light skin, hair and eyes, usually in poor vision, and sometimes in poor hearing.


Both parents must carry the gene in order to have a child with albinism, although because it’s recessive both parents may be black. For examples, if a non-albino mother and father both have one mutated copy, the likelihood of albinism in a given child will be 25 percent.


Albinism is found in every country in the world, with an average rate of 1 in every 20,000 births, but the prevalence in Africa is much higher. While the data in Tanzania is inadequate, the rate seems close to 1 in 2,000; this is likely because of the genetic link. In a country of 59 million people, this means about 30,000 Tanzanians have albinism.

 

LIVING WITH ALBINISM IN TANZANIA

Facing constant danger

Albinism is found in every country in the world, although it is more common in Tanzania than anywhere else.  In other countries the rate of albinism is 1 in every 20,000 births. While the data in Tanzania is inadequate, the rate seems close to 1 in 2,000; this is likely because of the genetic link. In a country of 59 million people, this means about 30,000 Tanzanians have albinism.


Life is harsh for many Africans with albinism.  With light skin, hair and eyes, they look starkly different than their neighbors.  The fact that they can be born to two black parents shocks friends and families, and myths develop to explain it.  For centuries people with albinism have been stigmatized by society. Without understanding that it’s an inherited condition, superstitions have often filled the gap.  


Perhaps nowhere in Africa is life as harsh as it is for Tanzanians with albinism. A child born with albinism is thought to be “a curse from God,” and in many places they are not even considered human beings. Fathers accuse mothers of having slept with a white man, or the ghost of a white man, and in most cases he abandons the family. People think albinism is contagious, so they don’t want to touch or even be around a person with albinism. Many people believe “Albinos don’t die, they just disappear.” People with albinism hear these myths, and without any real knowledge about their condition, may even believe them themselves.


In 2006 a new myth arose among those we might call witch doctors, “If you want to get wealthy quickly, you’ll need albino body parts.” As incredible as it seems, it was not a big leap from the supernatural qualities that had always been attributed to them. Also, for people in a country where the average income is $1.50 a day, the temptation is great. The UN determined that an albino body could be sold for $75,000, and a limb for about $15,000.  The myth spread like wildfire, and people with albinism began to be hunted.


Since then, the killing of 76 people with albinism have been reported, as well as another 78 attacks, many of which include arms or legs being hacked off with machetes. There is no doubt the reality is underreported, as people often shy away from police, some of whom are taking bribes to look the other way. Even family members themselves have at times been responsible for providing access to the person with albinism, and so the pressure on other families is great not to report it.

Even if Tanzanians with albinism avoid violence, skin cancer kills 80%of them before the age of 30.

 

DANGEROUS BELIEFS

Martha Mganga on Albino Myths

"Sister" Martha Mganga travels across Tanzania educating communities and people with Albinism, disolving myths by explaining genetics and referring families to medical resources.

 

REPORTED ATTACKS OF PERSONS WITH ALBINISM

In Africa through 2015

  • Benin, 2 reports: 2 killings – Both in 2012

  • Botswana, 3 reports: 3 survivors – September, 1998

  • Burkina Faso, 9 reports: 2 killings / 6 survivors / 1 asylum - Most recent - August 14, 2012

  • Burundi, 35 reports: 18 killings / 13 survivors / 4 grave robbery - Most recent – Oct. 6, 2015

  • Cameroon, 10 report: 2 killings, 2 survivor, 5 asylums, 1 grave robbery - Most recent – June 7, 2014

  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 60 reports: 14 killings / 31 survivors / 9 grave robberies / 6 asylums - Most recent – May, 2015

  • Egypt, 1 report: 1 asylum – September 16, 2011

  • Ghana, 3 report: 1 killing / 2 survivors – February 17, 2015

  • Guinea, 14 reports: 5 killings / 5 survivors / 4 asylums - Most recent – July 27, 2015

  • Ivory Coast, 26 reports: 7 killings / 11 survivors / 4 missing / 2 asylums / 2 abandoned - Most recent – July 12, 2015

  • Kenya, 13 reports: 5 killings / 8 survivors - Most recent – September 20, 2015

  • Malawi, 18 report: 5 killings / 10 survivors / 2 missing / 1 grave robbery – Most recent – Sept. 30, 2015

  • Mali, 14 report: 3 killings / 2 survivors / 2 missing / 7 asylums - Most recent - 2011

  • Mozambique, 5 reports: 2 murders, 2 survivors, 1 unknown status – Most recent – Sept. 17, 2015

  • Namibia, 3 reports: 2 killings / 1 survivor - Most recent - May 12, 2012

  • Niger, 1 report: 1 missing – August 6, 2012

  • Nigeria, 10 reports: 4 killings / 1 missing / 3 asylum / 1 kidnapping / 1 attempted kidnapping - Most recent December 13, 2014

  • Rwanda, 1 report: 1 grave robbery – July 2, 2013

  • Senegal, 9 report: 3 alleged killings / 4 survivors / 2 asylum - Most recent – June 17, 2015

  • South Africa, 5 reports: 2 killings / 1 missing / 1 survivor / 1 grave robbery - Most recent – August 5, 2015

  • Swaziland, 10 reports: 3 killings / 7 survivors - Most recent – September 26, 2015

  • Tanzania, 159 reports: 76 killings / 64 survivors / 1 abduction / 18 grave violations - Most recent – October 21, 2015

  • Uganda, 4 reports: 4 survivors – May 29, 2014

  • Zambia, 5 reports: 4 killings / 1 survivor – Most recent – May 26, 2015 Zimbabwe, 2 report: 1 killing 2011 / 1 asylum - November 29, 2012

 

Peacemakers for Albinism and Community

+255.686.037487

PO Box 7293, Arusha, Tanzania

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