Discrimination against albinos is a serious problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but recently in Tanzania it has taken a wicked twist: at least 19 albinos, including children, have been killed and mutilated in the past year, victims of what Tanzanian officials say is a growing criminal trade in albino body parts.
Many people in Tanzania – and across Africa, for that matter – believe albinos have magical powers. They stand out, often the lone white face in a black crowd, a result of a genetic condition that impairs normal skin pigmentation and strikes about 1 in 3,000 people here. Tanzanian officials say witch doctors are now marketing albino skin, bones and hair as ingredients in potions that are promised to make people rich.
To their credit, the Tanzanian government is doing what it can to protect albinos:
Police officers are drawing up lists of albinos in every corner of the country to better look after them. Officers are escorting albino children to school. Tanzania’s president even sponsored an albino woman for a seat in Parliament to show that ‘we are with them in this,’ said Salvator Rweyemamu, a Tanzanian government spokesman.
… but the situation still looks pretty grim.