Superstition and exclusion: Albinism remains a stigma

Superstition and exclusion: albinism remains a stigma

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  • Faith (l, 22) is the mother of Akram (2.5, M) and Aisha (4). She has two children with albinism. Photo: Tobias Pflanzen/Christoffel Blindenmission/dpa
  • Four-year-old Aisha from Uganda is the child of black parents, but her skin is white. Aisha has albinism. Photo: Tobias Pflanzen/Christoffel Blindenmission/dpa

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The body of people with albinism cannot produce melanin. Those affected are often exposed to prejudice, exclusion and violence. But there is also hope.

Nairobi.

They are known as the “white blacks”, they are unmistakable with their fair skin and reddish-blonde hair: people with albinism.

Most of those affected live in African countries, but the intense solar radiation on the equator is poison for them. Your light skin is unprotected without the dye melanin, and the intense light damages your eyes, which are already sensitive. People with albinism have an increased risk of developing skin cancer. World Albinism Day on 06. June should draw attention to their situation.

According to the self-help organization Peacemakers for Albinism in Tanzania percent of Tanzanians with albinism not that 30. Age. But that’s not the only reason why they live dangerously. Deadly superstitions mean that many children with albinism do not survive their early years.

Because people with albinism are not only literally drawn, their body parts are said to bring luck and wealth. In a report published a few weeks ago by the pan-African child protection organization ACPF, attacks on children with albinism were reported in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Malawi and Tanzania.

Ignored for far too long

“Africans have ignored this atrocious violence for too long,” said ACPF Director Joan Nyanyuki at the launch of the report in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Children with albinism are in a particularly difficult situation and are threatened by extreme violence and death.

Even if each individual case is too many: the report confirms progress in the fight against deadly superstitions in Malawi, for example. Since the government took decisive action against the practice of “magic medicine” made from body parts of abducted and murdered children, the number of such attacks has been from 60 in 2022 decreased to four last year.

But even if they not threatened with death, many people with albinism experience rejection and isolation from an early age. For many people, they are more ghosts than humans – in Tanzania, for example, according to the self-help organization Standing Voice, they are called “zeru zeru”, which means something like “not human”. Social isolation is often accompanied by poor health care and significantly reduced educational opportunities. According to Standing Voice, just half of the children with albinism in Tanzania complete primary school.

“People with albinism need our special support,” agrees Rainer Brockhaus, head of Christoffel Blindenmission (CBM), which is committed to medical care and against the exclusion of sick and disabled people. CBM projects also focus on educating neighbors, teachers and classmates. Sometimes relatively simple steps can make a big difference – for example for four-year-old Aisha from Uganda and her little brother, who also has albinism. In a clinic sponsored by CBM, the children were given special glasses with dark lenses so that they were less blinded and could see better. (dpa)

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