DESPITE the decline of attacks against people with albinism, those living in rural areas continue to live in fear amid presence of root causes that led to violence against them in the past.
The remarks were made yesterday in Dar es Salaam by the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ms Ikonwosa Ero, at the end of her 11-day visit to Tanzania.
“People with albinism continue to live in a very fragile situation as the root causes of the attacks against them remain rampant and the effects of over a decade of violations have taken their toll,” she noted.
Ms Ero said more work must be done to address witchcraft and sensitize community members on the importance of protecting people with albinism instead of harassing, killing or raping them.
She further praised the government for its effort to tackle the issue, which is rooted in the mistaken belief that certain body parts of people living with albinism bring good luck and prosperity. Albinism is a rare genetic condition, which affects the pigment in the eyes, hair and skin.
In the US, about 1 person in 17,000 has albinism. In Africa the prevalence is estimated to range between 1 in 1,100 to 1 in 15,000. But in Tanzania, the rate is much higher – about 1 in every 1,400.
The Independent Expert, however, said that there have been positive measures to address witchcraft practices in Tanzania including registration of traditional healers, but full oversight over their work has still not been achieved and confusion still exists in the minds of the general public between witchcraft practices and the work of traditional healers.
On number of people being prosecuted due to albino killings, she said it was still not clear and the government needs to investigate properly as according to the State, among 66 cases reported, 55 were prosecuted but NGOs and people with albinism had reported a different number which was higher than that.
Ms Ero also highlighted that skin cancer rather than attacks was one of the biggest threat to the lives of people with albinism; it is another area where more could be done. “Stronger government involvement is needed to reach more people and provide visual aids and use mobile clinics to prevent skin cancer are sustained,” she said.
During her mission to Tanzania, Ms Ero met with various government officials and civil society organisations; she also visited Dodoma, Dar es Salaam, Shinyanga, Mwanza, Kasulu and Kigoma.