The first-ever United Nations-sponsored regional forum for Action on Albinism in Africa is currently underway in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The forum is expected to develop specific measures to tackle the attacks and discrimination faced by persons with albinism in several countries in the region.
“It is in Tanzania that early reports of attacks started to emerge, so it is symbolic to have this here especially considering the progress which has been made. Yes we still have a challenge, but I think it acts not only as an awareness campaign but also as a recognition of what Tanzania has done…” said Possi Abdullah, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s office responsible for people with disabilities.
— The Guardian Limited (@TheGuardiantz) June 17, 2016
In East Africa, the persecution of people with albinism stems from history and witchcraft practice.
Researchers have found that In countries like Tanzania, Malawi, and Burundi, albinism has historically been viewed as a curse or punishment from God.
Civil society organisations have made strides in their own little folds to clamp down on the attacks and killings of people with albinism. The real challenge lies with changing public perceptions. They said the contribution by the UN is a much needed one
“I think the issues are clear generally but this forum gives the forum to finalize what the issues were and to decide on what steps to take, very practical steps are the emphasis of the forum,” said Ikponwosa Ero, UN expert on people with Albinism
In the past 19 months, authorities in Malawi have recorded the murders of 18 albinos and abduction of five others, although human rights organisations fear the real number is likely to be higher. Just as it is in other affected countries.