The government of Tanzania has been forced to set up refuge centers for albinos around the country where they can live without fear of being persecuted, according to the Daily Mail. People with albinism, particularly in Africa, continue to die at the hands of human hunters who sell their body parts and organs to witch doctors and traditional healers. The brutal persecution of albinos is rooted in the belief that their body parts can transmit magical powers.
According to the Daily Mail, some African communities believe that albinos are cursed and bring bad luck to their families.
Many albinos are also subjected to sexual abuse due to the belief by some communities that having sex with an albino woman can help cure AIDS.
Albinism is a hereditary skin disorder characterized by a complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. The condition is associated with a number of vision defects, such as photophobia, nystagmus, and amblyopia.
People with albinism are highly susceptible to sunburns and skin cancer.
Since 2012, photojournalist Ana Palacios has visited the Kabanga Refuge Center several times in order to learn more about the plight of people living with albinism in the country.
The center hosts more than 100 albino people who live alongside people with a wide range of mental and physical disabilities.
According to Palacios, women who take their albino children to the center act as guardians for the other albino kids who have been abandoned at the center by their families.
“A ‘white’ child is a stigma for the family. They are cared for less, given less to eat, and educated less. In some tribes albino children may be killed at birth, abandoned, or offered for ritual sacrifice,” Palacios explained during a recent visit to the center.
Many women in Tanzania are forced to flee to these rescue centers when they give birth to children with albinism for fear of stigma and persecution.
Currently, there are over 8,000 registered albinos in Tanzania, but the number is estimated to be much higher considering that many albino people are unaware of the existing charity programs offered in the country, according to the Tanzanian Albinism Society.