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Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Albinism is the lack of melanin pigment in the skin, eyes and hair which protects from the sun’s ultraviolet’s. Albinos are individuals suffering from albinism and they are vulnerable to medical complications as well as social discrimination in Africa.

James (not his real name) is an albino, it’s very hard for him to get a job in Kenya due to his condition he’s disillusioned by the state of affairs in his native state. He seeks employment in Tanzania through the help of a Kenyan friend who has promised to get him a job as a bus conductor. Just like any other unemployed person he’s desperate and will do anything to get a job even if it means travelling miles away to a foreign land. On arrival to Tanzania, he’s taken to a hotel where he’s locked up by his friend for several days instead of being taken to his work of place. He is to be sold by his friend to some gold miners for an estimated 400 million Tanzanian shillings equivalent to $263,000. His friend had taken advantage of his situation and used the job to lure him. It’s believed that portions mixed with albino body parts would bring good luck. He doesn’t know what he’s destined to, local police are aware of the sale, disguised themselves as the miners to buy him, James’ friend has no clue and in the event of negotiating, they identify themselves and arrest him. He’s lucky and lives to tell his story many are killed and their body parts sold in Tanzania, Burundi, Zaire and other places.

In Tanzania witchdoctors spread the false belief that expensive concoctions made from albinos limbs, genitals, hair and skin would bring good luck. This has led to many of them being murdered. They think that albinos are in some way special, what they don’t know and need to be educated about is why these unfortunate people are pale skinned. They are hunted by albino hunters, murdered dismembered and body parts sold to witch doctors. In other places like Zimbabwe, it’s believed that having sex with an albino for a man infected by HIV Aids will cure him. This superstition has increased the number of rape cases and infection rate of HIV among the albinos. In an effort to stop the trade and albino killings, police in Tanzania have arrested
people suspected to have murdered or sold their body parts to witchdoctors. The government has banned this trade, pulled licenses’ of healers suspected in engaging in the trade. For black African albinos living in Africa is a life of hell, not only are their body organs hacked off and sold to witch doctors to concoct wealth-enhancing charms but justice has been far too slow in coming for them. It has been reported by authorities that some families kill albino babies at birth to avoid discrimination.

Albinism is genetically inherited and caused by recessive gene, usually it’s associated with other mutations and many albinos have eye problems. In Tanzania the rate of albinism is high, 1 out of every 4000. The rate increases with in- breeding but there are other factors as well, they can have a normal offspring with a mate who doesn’t have the recessive gene. Human beings are not the only ones affected, there are albino gorillas, reindeer and even birds on a rare occasion have albino off- springs.

There is no known way of preventing albinism, only genetic counseling is recommended for people with a family history of it when deciding to have children to understand the risks of their offspring. Albinos can expect to have a normal life span but those suffering from Hermansky-pudlak syndrome, the life expectancy can be reduced due to lung disease and bleeding disorder. Those who have developed skin cancer have also have a reduced life expectancy. It’s symptoms vary with the amount of pigment lost, one can diagnose the disorder by observing the eyes, skin and hair of the pigment and also chemical testing and DNA genetic testing. Some people say that it’s good for one to check if either of the partners or future spouse has albinism in their family history or go for genetic testing before marriage. They say that it’s the way of preventing it to prevent the children from inheriting it. To some this sounds discriminative as you are only judging a person by his physical appearance. African albinos are so noticeable so get the worst kind of discrimination and it’s almost impossible that lack of knowledge is the root of all evil. It’s like a nightmare to think of the uncertain and awful lives these people have to live because of a tiny flaw in the DNA.

The Albinos Tanzania Development Foundation is an registered organization for line of work within the field of Albinos protection and development and it is a non-profit, non-trade organization, non-religious, non-political and nongovernmental organization, and believes that protection and development of Albinos is an indispensable human right.