This is so sad! An American photojournalist is shedding light on the poor treatment albinos suffer in Tanzania, with many seeking refuge in shelters after being abandoned by their families or hunted for their body parts, which superstitious locals use for witchcraft!
Via MailOnline reports:
In a land where they are despised, feared and even hunted for their body parts, the albinos of Tanzania have found a refuge that offers them a glimmer of hope for the future.
The Kabanaga Protectorate Centre in the town of Kabanaga in the north-west of the East African country, close to the Burundi border, caters to the nation’s albinos, who are known as the ‘tribe of ghosts’, ‘zeros’ or ‘the invisibles’.
They have suffered appalling treatment at the hands of their own neighbors and are murdered for their body parts, which are believed to bring good fortune and cure all manner of ills.
Associated Press staff photojournalist Jacquelyn Martin, based in Washington in the U.S, visited the centre to chronicle those who are treated with fear and contempt for a simple genetic fluke.
‘The children break your heart,’ says Jacquelyn, who travelled to the centre as part of the personal project. ‘Especially the ones who have been abandoned – They are uniquely beautiful people.’
The 70-or-so albinos, who range in age from newborns to sexagenarians, are at the centre for a combination of factors.
Sometimes the parents are afraid of their children, sometimes they are forced to give up their beloved offspring because they fear the prejudices of the people in their own community.
‘Despite everything they’ve been through and what they are probably going to have to face in the future,’ says Jacquelyn. ‘They really wanted to go back to their villages and live a normal life.
‘There’s a sense of community in the centre, where older people take care of the babies and younger children.’
One of the albinos is 17-year-old Angel, who was visited by her mother from a remote and poor part of the country for the first time in four years.
When she was born her father called her ‘a gift from God’.
But his joy was not that of a new father – he wanted to butcher the girl and sell her body parts for thousands of dollars, a fortune to the average family in Tanzania.
Angel’s mother was filled with love for her daughter and managed to deter the father for years, but when Angel was 13 he led a group to attack her.
Angel got away, but her mother’s own parents were killed in the attack as they fought to protect their granddaughter.
Ignorance about the condition is rife – there is even a belief that their mothers slept with white men to give them the condition.
‘Sometimes it’s less about beliefs than pure economics,’ says Jacquelyn. ‘[But] there was this note of strength in all of the ones I met; all of them had hopes for something greater.’
‘One wanted to be a politician to help other albinos, another wanted to be a lawyer to fight for their rights, one wanted to be a teacher to educate people about the condition and another wanted to be a journalist to report about people with albinism.’
But it is a long and steep slope to climb before Tanzania truly wakes up to the terrible plight that faces each albino born into this world.
In February attackers collecting body parts of albinos for witchcraft hacked off the hand of a seven-year-old boy, officials said.
The boy, called Mwigulu Magessa, was ambushed by the men as he walked home with his friends in Tanzania. He survived but many such victims of ignorance are not so lucky.
Just days earlier an albino mother of four had her arm chopped off by machete-wielding men and a month before that an albino child died in Tanzania’s Tabora region after attackers hacked off his arm.’
There is very little being done by the government other than putting them in centers to ensure their safety,’ Jacquelyn adds. ‘They are just sweeping them under the rug, there isn’t a long-term solution.
‘It was hard to leave the children in this situation and I hope my photography has put a human face on the issue and I hope they see themselves as I see them – beautiful people who deserve a chance in life.’
Jacquelyn collaborated with the non-profit organization Asante Mariamu during her trip to the centre, which is housed in the Kabanga Primary School, a government boarding school for disabled children.
The organization is dedicated to raising awareness about the ongoing human rights crisis impacting people with albinism in East Africa.
They seek to teach people with albinism about the condition, so that they can better understand how to protect themselves from skin cancer.
They also work to dispel the myths surrounding the condition to increase acceptance in society.
Providing direct relief with sun protective gear and sunscreen, Asante Mariamu also seeks to empower people with albinism by providing opportunities for education so that they can become vital and valuable members of society.
We’re praying for these people! Albinos are discriminated against across the globe, not just in Tanzania, but it’s got to stop. Thank goodness somebody is getting the word out so they can receive help!
Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin