Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. It is very rare and affects approximately one in twenty thousand people worldwide.
People living with albinism often die prematurely due to reasons which could be prevented, such as skin cancers caused by undue exposure to intense sun light.
On top of this, there have been several brutal instances worldwide of people with albinism being persecuted and harmed. While these cases are absolutely horrific, they luckily represent a minority issue. For example, the majority of Tanzania’s estimated 170,000 albinos never had to experience anything like this.
However, sadly, these cases do occur. More than 70 albinos have been murdered in Tanzania since 2000, according to the United Nations and many more have been mutilated. The body parts of albino people, who lack pigment in their skin, are sought after by some witchdoctors who use them in rituals and are prepared to pay high prices for them.
In 2009, Bibiana, a nine-year-old albino girl, was attacked while she slept in her home in Butundwe village in the Shinyanga region. Her uncle, with whom she lived, orchestrated the attack and several men with machetes cut off her leg above her knee and two fingers.
Following her ordeal, Bibiana stayed in hospital for over a year. She and her little sister were ultimately adopted by a family who were moved by their plight.
We met Bibiana in 2013, when she was 13 years old and needed a new prosthetic leg. She became part of our project with Friends of the Children of Tanzania and was measured for and fitted with a new prosthetic leg, which greatly improved her mobility. Today, while the situation for albinos in Tanzania remains unsafe, Bibiana has made a wonderful contributed to raising awareness of the situation by telling her story in the book Je ne suis pas un talisman (I am not a talisman / lucky charm), which she co-authored.
Photo courtesy of Friends of the Children of Tanzania