Friday, January 8, 2010

African Albinos Fight for Survival

The quest for instant wealth has driven people to get involved in unspeakable illicit activities like modern-day slavery, but trade in human body parts is even more disturbing. In parts of Africa, there's a misguided belief that Albino body parts have magical powers, hence unscrupulous dealers hunting down fellow human beings - Albinos - for their body parts. These dealers can make up to $75,000 from a complete set of body parts, including all limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose. This hunt has resulted to a fight for survival by African Albinos.

Since 2007, 44 albinos have been killed in Tanzania and thousands have been displaced since the killings began. Many have been driven from their homeland and forced to seek asylum abroad simply because they look different.

The story of Mariam Staford Bandaba caught my attention:

Mariam Staford. Photo:
Like many other people living in the East African country of Tanzania, Mariam's life as never been easy, but it's more harder now. She lost her hands in 2008 in a barbaric attack by Albino hunters. She's a living testament to Albino hunting in Tanzania.

The latest Albino murder happened in Tanzania in late October 2009. The victim was 10-year-old Gasper Elikana. It's reported that the killing left his father seriously injured as he tried to save his son from "cannibals" who beheaded the boy and chopped off his leg.

I was born and raised in Africa (I don't apologize for it) and I'm fully aware of what Albinos in the continent have to endure - the scourging sun which puts them at risk of skin cancer, insults, discrimination and segregation. But I never imagined a day would come when they'll be hunted for their body parts. Are we moving forward or backwards?

"Albinism is one of the most unfortunate vulnerabilities," said Secretary General of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Crescent societies - Bekele Geleta. "And it needs to be addressed immediately at an international level."

Witch doctors are reportedly the source of these killings.

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