Ancient Tribal Beliefs Encourage Killing of Albinos

Witchcraft practitioners in Tanzania and Burundi are encouraging violence against albino persons by paying for their limbs or organs, which are used in rituals to bring luck, wealth, and health.

Superstition and greed are fueling this inhumanity.

Sub-saharan Africa has higher-than-average rates of albinism, an imbalance in skin pigmentation marked by pale skin and light eyes:

Prevalences as high as 1 in 1,000 were reported for selected populations in Zimbabwe and other specific ethnic groups in Southern Africa. An overall estimate of albinism prevalences ranges from 1/5,000 – 1/15,000. (From BMC Public Health)

According to the Red Cross, the official death toll (as of November 2009) now stands at 44 albinos killed in Tanzania and 12 in the eastern Burundian provinces of Cankuzo, Kirundo, Muyinga and Ruyigi – on or near the border with Tanzania. Private organizations and some media in Tanzania have put the number higher, at more than 50 deaths.

The Red Cross estimate that 10,000 albinos are in hiding from the hunters and are  unable to work, attend school, and live without fear.

In this expose, a woman posing as a businesswoman saw the callous operations of this chilling industry.

He said he knew what I wanted and said he would find me albino blood, hair, leg and palms for $2,000.

MediaGlobal links the upward swing of albino killings to the struggle against communicable disease:

Furthermore, the use of witchcraft-related rituals and their connection to health issues has seen an increase in recent years with the prevalence of communicable diseases.According to the World Health Report conducted by the World Health Organization in Africa in 2002, HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory infections, malaria, diarrhoeal diseases, and childhood diseases accounted for 50 percent of the mortality rates. The HIV/AIDS epidemic was the largest threat to Africa, resulting in over 2 million deaths. In rural communities, where there is a lack of access to healthcare, some members of the communities are attributing diseases like HIV/AIDS to demonic spirits. Often times, locals believe these demons can be extracted by means of inflicting harm to the ailing person or to their family.

The lack of crucial health information and education in rural areas allows for the attribution of severe disease to supernatural causes. Pathos and desperation lead to leaning on such supernatural “cures”– like the perceived health benefits of rituals using the limbs of albinos.

Refugee camps, concerned citizens, and non-profit groups have been working in crisis mode; The long-term solution will be health awareness, recognition of this as a human rights issue, and the re-incorporation of albino citizens into society.


Children’s Book Project for Tanzania and Book Aid International  have put together a book, Wema Amwokoa Noa, as an educational resource for schoolchildren to encourage acceptance of albinos.


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