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The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay “A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
Dec 2013 back issue
Zeru, Zeru Being Albino in Tanzania
by Franck Vogel
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Around lake Victoria in Tanzania, the evil is driven by the belief that albino body parts possess magical powers to bring riches if used in potions produced by local witchdoctors. Most " clients " are rich businessmen eager to get more gold out of their mines or politicians, who want to be elected. Since 2007, official reports indicate that 59 people with albinism have been brutally murdered and their body parts hacked off and sold to witchdoctors for huge amounts of money: $2000 a leg, an arm or the blood...that makes a whole albino body worth $10,000. The horror business is even now crossing the borders (Congo, Burundi, Kenya). Albinism is defined as a genetically inherited disorder resulting from lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin and eyes. Tanzania has the highest rate of albinos in the world, 1 in 3,000 are affected, compared to 1 in 20,000 in Europe and North America. Besides the horrible killings, African Albinos suffer daily discrimination in the street, at school, and due to vision problems face difficulty in completing educational programs resulting in chronic unemployment. Most of them are therefore poor and cannot afford sun creams or proper clothes to protect themselves from the sun that kills them through skin cancer. Albino life expectancy here is 30 years, with only 2% living beyond 40 years. The Tanzania Albino Society struggles to help and teach their members but suffers from corruption and the Tanzanian government is still divided despite President Kikwete and Prime Minister's efforts (albino MP nominated, police operation to arrest witchdoctors,...). The Minister for Interior Affairs still says about Vicky Ntetema (BBC journalist, who brought the story on air), "she is a shame for the country!"
Ngeme Luhahula, 51 years old, prays every day on her daughter's grave in Ilungu village. Vumilia Makoye was killed in front of her eyes at the age of 17 in Mai 2008. To avoid grave pillage, she was burried on the same spot she was murdered: in her house, which was destroyed on top of the grave after burial. The family built a new one just near the grave to protect it. Albino bodies have recently been plundered to remove arms and legs.The government is supposed to seal albino graves with cement but Ngeme is still waiting. 
Ali Omali (25 years) lives in Vikindu, a village 50 km away from Dar-es-Salaam and refuses to rely on people's generosity. Unlike many albinos, he's not begging and prefers to work hard and earn his own money by working in his fields. Now cousins and uncles are asking him for help !! A lesson for life. Ali has a black girlfriend and a little non- albino girl. He plans to marry soon. That's why he works so hard, often after lunch when the sun is worst, and without sun cream...it's too expensive. Albino life expectancy is around 30 years.
Gaston Mcheka, 34 years, is a freelance journalist and lives with his wife Pamela, also albino, and their 3 children (Viktor, Isaac and Joshua) in a little house in a poor Dar-es-Salaam suburb. The children are all black because their parents have 2 different type of albinism (Type 1 and 2). Those 2 genes are recessive. Some months back, a tumour appeared...skin cancer. He knows that his days are now numbered. Gaston is also General Secretary for "Albino United", the Dar-es-Salaam albino soccer team. They have 6 training sessions per week on a field near the Ocean Road Cancer Institute and TAS office (Tanzania Albino Society). Every weekend they play games and the last one against the Aga Khan's team was a huge victory: 7-0.
Mitindo Primary School, 40km from Mwanza, welcomes 96 albino and 46 blind children in a total of 1200 kids. Unique in Tanzania, albino children come from all over the country. Since albinos have vision problems, they take the first row. It's a government school but is mainly sponsored by International NGOs (Caritas, Rotary, Lion's Club,...). It's still not enough. Most of the classrooms are empty: no table, no bench, just concrete floor. The albino dormitory has lately been furnished by NGOs with mosquito nets and mattresses.
In Dar-es-Salaam, near the Ocean Road Cancer Institut, the "Albino United" soccer team trains 6 days a week.
In Tanzania, in the Lake Victoria area, witchdoctors are very popular and respected by many tribes, especially Sukumas. Over 80% of the people visit witchdoctors for treatment against cancer, AIDS or to find love, or to get rich, which is the main reason they need albino body parts. Since 2007, 68 albino, mainly children, have been attacked and 59 of them have been murdered.  Witchdoctors use the body parts to make magic powders and potions. Rich businessmen visit them after buying mining (gold) land...A witchdoctor can arrange to get hold of albino body parts for 2000$. Vicky Ntetema from the BBC did an undercover investigation with a hidden video camera.  SHe was offered albino body parts in exchange for large sums of money.  Since her report aired she has been under threat of murder herself from witchdoctors and even State Ministrs.
Gold mine near Geita.  Witchdoctors are often called upon to locate gold.
It was here, near lake Victoria, that Bibiana had her leg cut off by machete in 2007. Her uncle was sent to prison for one year. He was suspected of having sold the leg but no evidence was ever found, resulting in his release from prison.
Bibiana in her bedroom.  She shows her prosthetic limb.
Bibiana Mbuchi (13 years) is one of the few albinos that has survived an attack - three men cut off her right leg and two fingers -  near Mwanza. After her parents death from AIDS, she was adopted by her uncle and ‘sold’. Three years after the attack, Bibiana is still terrified. Tindi (11), her albino sister, saw a man walking out with her sister's leg over his shoulder. Both were adopted by albino MP Kwegyir and are now boarding at Kongowe adventist school near Dar- es-Salaam.
Bibiana at Kongowe adventist school near Dar-es-Salaam.
Faudhia Jabil Katundu is a tanzanian model and fashion designer. She created this dress for the reception given by the Egyptian Embassy for the Albinos in Dar-es-Salaam (March 25th, 2009). She's also a member of "Good Hope Star Foundation" NGO, created in 2008 by Al-Shaymaa Kwegyir, the Albino MP.
Kongowe adventist school near Dar-es-Salaam.
Kongowe adventist school near Dar-es-Salaam.
Kongowe adventist school near Dar-es-Salaam.
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