People with albinism in Tanzania still fear attacks despite improvement: UN expert
People with albinism in rural Tanzania continue to live in fear due to widespread attitudes that lead to violence against them despite attacks against them declining, a UN expert who visited the country said Friday.
The UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, said in a statement that more work is needed to address witchcraft and educate the public.
"People with albinism continue to live in a very fragile situation, as the root causes of the attacks against them remain rampant, and the effects of over a decade of violations have taken their toll," she said.
Albinism is a congenital disorder in human beings characterised by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes and it is believed to have a relatively high occurrence in sub-Saharan Africa.
Speaking at the end of an 11-day visit to Tanzania, Ero said "People are still living in fear, particularly in rural areas."
However, she welcomed a drop in the number of reported attacks and praised the government for its work to tackle the issue.
She said the attacks are rooted in the mistaken belief that the body parts of people with albinism have value in witchcraft practices.
"There have been positive measures to address witchcraft practices, including the registration of traditional healers," said Ero.
"However, full oversight over their work has still not been achieved, and confusion still exists in the minds of the general public between witchcraft practice and the work of traditional healers," the UN Independent Expert noted.
She stressed that skin cancer, rather than attacks, remains one of the biggest threat to the lives of people with albinism, and said it is another area where more could be done.
The UN says that attacks against people with albinism in Tanzania received international attention for the first time about a decade ago in 2007.
The seriousness of these attacks, many of which led to death, mutilation and displacement, prompted national initiatives from the government, civil society, and other international actors said Ero, who is appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.