The Albinism Umbrella, an activist group for albinos’ has called for policies to guarantee the safety of persons with albinism across the country. They say that persons with albinism continue to live in a very fragile situation amid widespread attitudes that lead to violence against them.
Albinism is a congenital disorder that affects about one in 20,000 people worldwide who lack melanin pigment in their skin, hair and eyes. It is more common in sub-Saharan Africa.
But people with the condition live in fear as a result of the mistaken belief that their body parts have value. Olive Namutebi, the Executive Director of the Albinism Umbrella says many people believe that parts extracted from albinos can cure HIV, AIDS, cancer and that they are a source of wealth.
According to records by the United Nations, at least 75 albinos were killed in neighbouring Tanzania between 2000 and 2015 by people seeking to chop off their arms, limbs and tongue for superstition. The parts are traded in a lucrative market for use in witchcraft. Reported prices range from USD 2,000 (8 million Shillings) for a limb to USD 75,000 (285 million) for a corpse.
Namutebi says that given such a price tag and the myths surrounding the condition, albinos need deliberate policies to protect them from rape, kidnap, murder and discrimination in school
The call was made at a press conference that was held jointly with the Equal Opportunities Commission ahead of the International Albinism Awareness Day to be celebrated on June 13 in Mbale district, one of the hubs for Persons with Albinism in Uganda. The day is used to call for the prevention of attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism.
Sylvia Muwebwa Ntambi, the chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission says that government needs to protect and sensitize security personnel about the insecurity that albinos face.
Ntambi adds that government needs to come up with a policy to give affirmative action to albinos to be able to access education services.
Uganda is a signatory to the regional action plan on ending attacks on persons with albinism. The regional action plan to end attacks on persons with albinism in Africa – the first-ever such joint initiative – was recently endorsed by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
It includes 15 practical steps which are expected to address the persisting and deadly challenge as well as support for victims to deter practices of witchcraft and trafficking in body parts.