It has never been easy to be an albino in Tanzania - they are shunned as outcast and often die of skin cancer before they reach 30. Now, there is another more imminent danger: albinos are being hunted for their body parts, as Tanzanians believe they have magical powers.
But the killings go on. They have even spread to neighboring Kenya, where an albino woman was hacked to death in late May, with her eyes, tongue and breasts gouged out. Advocates for albinos have also said that witch doctors are selling albino skin in Congo.
The young are often the targets. In early May, Vumilia Makoye, 17, was eating dinner with her family in their hut in western Tanzania when two men showed up with long knives.
Vumilia was like many other Africans with albinism. She had dropped out of school because of severe near-sightedness, a common problem for albinos, whose eyes develop abnormally and who often have to hold things like books or cellphones two inches away to see them. She could not find a job because no one would hire her. She sold peanuts in the market, making $2 a week while her delicate skin was seared by the sun.
When Vumilia’s mother, Jeme, saw the men with knives, she tried to barricade the door of their hut. But the men overpowered her and burst in.
“They cut my daughter quickly,” she said, making hacking motions with her hands. The men sawed off Vumilia’s legs above the knee and ran away with the stumps. Vumilia died.
Jeffrey Gettleman wrote this gruesome yet fascinating and sad story for The New York Times: Link
(Photo: Guillaume Bonn / The New York Times)