Albinism is a rare, hereditary and non-degenerative disease that involves an absence or reduction in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin, hair and eyes. In people with albinism, the pigmentation in these areas takes on different colors depending on the amount of melanin in the body. All across Africa, these people are persecuted, discriminated against and even victimised.
“Everyone thinks I am cursed,” said Doungani Sandrin, a Cameroonian primary school student. “My family has disowned me. My family doesn’t want to see me. No matter what I do, they ignore it because I’m an albino. I have no respect in their eyes.
The widespread discrimination against albinos in Africa is partly due to the very high incidence rate. Around one in every 20,000 people worldwide is affected by albinism, but In Africa, the rate is much higher. In Zimbabwe, for example, it is estimated that one in 4,000 people is an albino, while in Tanzania the number is closer to one in 1,429. This is because rural tribes tend to move less and have a more isolated genetic pool.
Discrimination is also based on unfounded beliefs and witchcraft prevalent on the continent. African albinos are the target of ridicule, verbal aggression, and social discrimination, and are perceived by their families as divine punishment. Fathers often leave their wives when they give birth to a child with albinism, and sometimes mothers, fearing social repercussions and motivated to protect the family from slander and humiliation, should they be born albino. Will leave her children or even kill them.
In some areas of sub-Saharan Africa, albinos face tremendous persecution, are considered to be bringers of bad luck, and is called zero zero in Swahili, or “ghost people.” However, in other areas, the proliferation of magicians and healers has propagated myths such as the superstition that people with albinism are endowed with magical powers, with body parts that will bring good luck and success. So, on the one hand, these people are killed and tortured because they are considered to be carriers of misfortune – from 2014 to 2019, 150 people with albinism were reported to have been killed in Malawi alone – and on the other , mutilated or raped together (due to the belief that sexual intercourse with a woman with albinism could cure sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS). The head of the Cameroonian Association for the Promotion of Albinos, Kakemeni Wembou Raphael, told Anadolu Agency that albino children grow up fearing discrimination and kidnapping which are very common in Cameroon. Captured albinos can be sold on the black market for $15 to $30.
Attacks on people with albinism have decreased in recent years, and there have been modest improvements in safety. Attendees at the January 2018 African Union summit in Addis Ababa complement the adoption of the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights New Protocol on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesRequire signatory states to end any violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, and for the first time, 12 people were convicted for the murder of a boy with albinism on 29 aprilth2022. (MacDonald Masambuka, 22, disappeared from Nakawa village on 9 Marchth, 2018, after buying a mat at a friend’s shop. His body was found less than a month later.)
Yet people with albinism live in fear. But unfortunately this conviction did not stop the killings. In November 2022, a few months after the murder conviction, A three-year-old girl died in Mavava Tadala Chirva village Sleeping with my grandma.
The situation for African albinos remains alarming. More must be done to protect the rights and safety of these people.