The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is calling for concerted action to end the recent spate of murders of albinos in Tanzania and bring perpetrators to justice.
Reports from the Tanzania Albino Society say more than 35 albinos have been killed this year, and many other deaths have likely gone unreported, by local Tanzanians who believe their blood and body parts can bring wealth to others. The brutal practice has spread to neighbouring Burundi , where several albinos, including children, have been killed in the past few months.
“UNICEF condemns these heinous acts as a systematic violation of individual human rights that must be dealt with decisively,” the agency said in a news release.
Tanzanian authorities have arrested 173 suspects, including five policemen, in connection with the murders, and are offering protection to albinos throughout the country. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has also condemned the attacks and called for tough action against the killers.
UNICEF lauds those measures, but is calling on the judiciary, the media, religious leaders, politicians and communities to bolster the response and weed out deeply-rooted superstitious beliefs that incite the murders.
The problem is particularly acute in the Lake Victoria regions of Mara, Mwanza, Shinyanga and Kagera, in the country’s north, where witch doctors have convinced fortune-seekers that albino body parts and blood can be used to prospect for gold and increase a catch of fish – both important sources of income in these regions rich in minerals and commercial fishing.
UNICEF said it will also do its part by working with the Tanzanian Government, UN offices in Tanzania and others to “ensure albinos like other citizens enjoy their fundamental rights to life, freedom and protection.” The agency is already partnering with Burundi ’s Government to protect albinos there, give them non-food items and ensure their children can still attend school.