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Albino attacks still rife

children with albinism sit at the Golden Valley English Medium School, a school sponsored by Under The Same Sun (UTSS), in Geita November 24 , 2011. UTSS is a Canadian non-profit organization that sponsores more than 300 pupils with albinism from Tanzania
by Kizito Makoye,
thur, 16-June-2016, 5:23pm

NZEGA, Tanzania (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In her short life, five-year-old Kulwa Jawilu from northwestern Tanzania has already escaped death and certain dismemberment three times, her father, Mihambo, says.

In the latest attack in May, men armed with machetes raided the family home, looking for the girl and her eight-year-old sister, Tausi. Both are albinos - members of a highly vulnerable group whose body parts are often sought for use in witchcraft in the east African nation.

Mihambo Jawilu said he had planned to spend the night with his second wife, a few kilometres (miles) away, but something told him to go home.

"I had come from a brewery place earlier than I'd normally do," Jawilu recalled. "My heart kept telling me to go back."

But Kulwa was away, sleeping at her grandfather's place, and the attackers did not find Tausi, who had hidden behind bags stuffed with grain.

Eventually the men gave up their search and left.


"I had asked the local authorities to protect my daughters without any success," Jawilu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"I am glad they are now safe in Tabora even though I miss them," he added, referring to the western region where a safe house has been found for the girls.

U.N. officials have urged the Tanzanian government to increase efforts to end the attacks and discrimination against people with albinism, a congenital disorder affecting about one in 20,000 people worldwide.


Albinism, which results in a lack of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes, is more common in sub-Saharan Africa and affects about one Tanzanian in 1,400.

United Nations officials estimate about 75 albinos have been killed in Tanzania since 2000, many hacked to death and their body parts removed to make charms and spells that witch doctors claim bring good luck.


For Isaka Begumisa, the grief brought by violence against people with albinism is relentless.

His son was born with albinism like him. But at barely three months old, the baby died of natural causes in January, Begumisa said.

Last month, Begumisa found out that his son's grave had been desecrated and his remains stolen.

"This incident has evoked very painful memories," he said. "If they have the guts to steal my son's body from the grave, where on earth is there a safe place?"

Last year, the Tanzania government banned witch doctors in a bid to stop a rising wave of attacks and murders of albinos.

Yet campaigners say more needs to be done to protect children like Kulwa and Tausi.

"We urge the government to step up efforts to arrest and prosecute suspected criminals and speed up pending court cases relating to hostility against people with albinism, so that justice can be seen to be done," said Vicky Ntetema, executive director of Under the Same Sun, a Canadian-based group that helps people with albinism.

the story comes courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Visit Thomson Reuters to see more stories

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