The senseless belief that an albino child’s mother was impregnated by the white man or that the child is the ghost of a European colonist leads to the unimaginable consequences of the fate of albinos. Among the Mandinke people of Mali, a child is seen as a curse and not allowed anywhere close to their own family. This is a reason why the renowned Malian singer known for his Golden Voice and as the inventor of AfroPop music, Salif Keita was ostracized from his family despite being born of royal blood as a direct descendant of the founder of the Malian Empire, Sundiata Keita. Hardship and prejudice is also felt in a few other countries such as India, where families are forced to move or live in isolation due to the uncomfortable stares and treatment by fellow citizens of their country. Such are the trials and tribulations of Albinos; and the question is…why?
In most parts of the world today, social discrimination is not a big issue for Albinos because of the realization that Albinism is not what it has been concocted to be. However, in parts of Africa, social discrimination against Albinos is far worse than even the medical issues they go through. Not only are they killed by members of society for superstitious and monetary values in the black market, some families have killed or sold their babies at birth to avoid discrimination by the rest of the community. Life is hard and harsh for thousands of Africans with albinism. The stigma that surrounds them has been greatly ingrained within society for many generations and thus throughout their lives, they battle with prejudice, social exclusion and isolation. In rural Tanzania, the belief that their people with albinism are not Africans leaves those with the condition, with a little or lack thereof, a sense of their racial identity. Judged by the color of their skin, they are continually de-humanized and ostracized within their communities.
This stigmatization continues to grow and has reached unimaginable new heights. According to the information documented by the press, police and the Tanzanian Albino Society, with the rate of albinism being about one (1) in every fourteen hundred (1,400) people which is a startlingly high rate, over seventy (70) people with albinism have been brutally killed in Tanzania over the past years. In total, over one hundred (100) murders of albinos have occurred that includes other countries such as Burundi. This number unfortunately is feared to have increased. Spreading into neighboring countries and into societies where poverty is prevalent, this horrific practice is becoming more common. In some areas of Zimbabwe, it is believed that those with HIV/AIDS will be completely cured after a sexual encounter with an albino. This ridiculous superstitious belief has led to the rape of numerous innocent who are in turn affected by the diseases. The demand by Africans to the rest of world to be respected for their culture and traditions that aid in directing and nurturing one’s personality and moral upbringing is well warranted. However, when dangerous beliefs such as these that devalue the lives of Albinos because of their skin color, one cannot help but think there are Africans who do hide behind the cloak of some of the so-called Traditions and Cultures to commit atrocious discriminatory deeds that go unpunished. Destroying the lives of a people who look different from the expected look of an African in skin tone or color is wrong.
Now the question is what can be done to eliminate these horrible acts of murder, sexual abuse and rape? Although ingrained in the minds of the people for many years, education is a key in breaking this cycle of ignorance and hate. Constant education and awareness in schools, companies and events on the plights of Albinos is a way that can help in opening up the doors of acceptance and respect towards them. Organizations such as Under the Same Sun founded by Canadian Peter Ash and Salif Keita’s Global Foundation lead in the fight against the persecution and for the protection of Albinos; thus having more organizations and associations working together towards the same goal in eradicating the discriminatory limitations they face. Educating and informing families about albinism and giving them the tools for survival is also important for most do not know much about the medical challenges faced and ways to protect themselves. With lack of jobs available, those with albinism are left vulnerable to poverty and helplessness, which leaves many working outside and under the sun unprotected. Provision of more programs that cater to providing the medical resources and also job opportunities that lead to the hiring of Albinos that will aid in empowering them to move forward in providing for themselves and assisting others who are in need of help.
Although few measures have been taken by the government after the outcry of lack of action by activists, many have criticized the government's response to the violence, pointing to the low prosecution rates for crimes against people with albinism. More vigorous crackdowns on criminals and traditionalists who are behind the kidnapping, killing and raping of innocent victims must be taken. Recently a Tanzanian toddler was found mutilated in the forest - an ongoing cycle that seem to never end. Organizations providing a safe abode for families who want to live safely and in peace are extremely vital for their survival. One of the key organizations making strides in the albino protection movement is The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) that is working to integrate albinos back into society safely in Burundi. The IFRC particularly works with protecting mothers and children who are in fear of persecution and furthermore assist in providing safe homes and ensuring an environment of love, understanding of one another and albinism, which in turn helps creates unity in the battle against persecution and discrimination. The Red Cross has made it very clear in their publications that the government must also take drastic steps in protection of persons with albinism to stop the persecution. Although the government has placed bans to eradicate the vicious killings and persecutions of adults and children with Albinism, more needs to be done. There must be constant and vigilant watch and monitoring by the organizations, the people and the government on those who are eager to strike on the innocent therefore bringing the much needed justice that is lacking.