Tanzanian summit tackles ignorance of albinism

21 June 2016

The first Action on Albinism in Africa forum, held from 17 to 19 June in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, brought together over 150 people from 28 countries to lay down a roadmap of specific measures to combat human rights abuses against people with albinism.

The event, organised by Ikponwosa Ero, a UN expert on albinism, urged African governments to do more to protect their albino population.

Ero took to Twitter to highlight the event:

 

 

Albinism is a birth condition in which the body is unable to produce melanin, the pigment in the skin. Ignorance of the condition means many albinos in sub- Saharan Africa – Tanzanians in particular – suffer discrimination and violence.

Africans with albinism have been murdered because many believe their bodies have magical powers. Across central and eastern Africa, especially, people believe albino body parts can help achieve instant wealth. Most victims are women and children. The youngest known victim, from Tanzania, was just 7 months old.

Last year the documentary In the Shadow of the Sun brought global attention to the plight of albinos in Tanzania, telling their stories and urging people to get involved in fighting discrimination against them.

In the film, 15-year-old Vedastus described how his community believed his albinism gave him magical powers. Every day, he had to go fishing with people in his village. “They like to take me, because they say I could save them. They say that if the boat capsizes, I am the only person that cannot die.

“If they come on top of me, they will not drown. They will not die. They believe that I float on water.”

Measures to tackle ignorance

Ero said some African countries had successfully tackled this discrimination with specific, practical, simple and effective measures. These, she said, included “having a dedicated office and budget on the issue, creating a telephone hotline to report crimes and threats, and regulating ‘witchcraft’ and traditional medicine practitioners.

“But these ideas have to be shared as best practices and developed into a continental roadmap to successfully tackle the issues.”

Ero said now was the time for action.

“As the continent of Africa celebrates the decade of human rights, and the UN launches the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda which pledges to leave no one behind, we have a good context in which to plant this forum,” she said.”It is not going to be easy to come up with specific measures for all the issues arising out of the problems faced by persons with albinism, but the best practices of some states and civil society to date will represent a key step forward in promoting and protecting their human rights.”

Source: United Nations News Centre and SouthAfrica.info reporter