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Pale and Persecuted: Albinos Hunted, Terrorized in Tanzania

Living in sub-Saharan Africa isn't an easy existence for anyone — but for albino people living in one of Earth’s hottest areas has intense challenges. Their total lack of pigmentation, which affects 1 in 3,000, is excruciating under the glaring African sun — they are predisposed to severe skin burns and often die of skin cancer before the age of 30.

Though lately, the weather is the least of their problems. Tanzanian officials claim that witch doctors are promoting the sale of albino skin, bones and hair as ingredients in spells to create prosperity. In the past year, 19 albinos including children have been killed or mutilated. Police are creating lists of albinos throughout their nation in an effort to better protect them including escorts for albino children to get to and from school. I absorb a lot of news, but this story is almost unimaginably horrific. To see how,


One of the families devastated by this phenomenon was eating when four men entered their home and cut off the legs of their albino daughter and simply left with her amputated stumps. She later died.

The Commissioner said of the witch doctor’s influence into the persecution of the albino people:

These witch doctors have many strange beliefs. There was a rumor not so long ago that if you use a bald head when fishing, you’ll get rich. There was another one that said if you spread blood on the ground in a mine, you’ll find gold. These rumors come and go. The problem is, the people who follow witch doctors don’t question them.

Police say the rural areas are the most susceptible to rumors and superstitions, as they tend to be uneducated. This wave of albino killings surprised the police who have no idea why it seemed to begin so suddenly but suspect either a wave of imported Nigerian movies centering on the theme of witchcraft or rising food prices — necessitating the spells for wealth — could be the cause.

Tanzanian Albino Society, a nonprofit advocacy group that operates on less than $15,000 a year, has become increasingly vital to this population in crisis.

— Additional reporting by Zoe Stagg

Image Source: Getty
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