Albinism is a genetically inherited disorder which results in a lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin and eyes of those affected. In almost all cases a significant visual impairment is also involved, with most persons with albinism being legally blind.
Albinism is a rare genetic condition occurring in both genders regardless of ethnicity. In North America and Europe it is estimated that 1 in 20,000 people have some form of albinism. In Tanzania however, it is 5 times as common with 1 in 4,000 people being affected.
The horror of a rapidly growing industry in the sale of albino body parts.
This unimaginable evil is driven by the belief (in some areas of the country) that the bodyparts of people with albinism possess magical powers capable of bringing riches if used in potions produced by local witchdoctors. During the last year, official reports indicate that 43 people with albinism have been brutally murdered and their bodyparts hacked off and sold to witchdoctors. However, leaders in the albinism community believe the number of deaths to be between 60 and 70. Reports also indicate that albino bodyparts are being exported outside of Tanzania. In one instance, a Tanzanian trader was caught travelling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the head of an albino baby in his possession. He told police that a businessman there was going to pay him for the head by its weight.
Widespread social discrimination fueled by powerful myths.
There is long standing and widespread lack of public awareness of albinism. Powerful myths surround albinism in Africa. Some of these are:
* People with albinism are evil or are a curse from God and will bring bad luck on the household * People with albinism never die - they simply vanish * People with albinism are born to black women who have slept with a white man * Albinism is believed to be a contagious disease - as a result many employers avoid hiring persons with albinism due to fears that their customers and staff will "catch" the condition, or that food would be contaminated if touched by a person with albinism.