Malawi’s albinos at risk of ‘total extinction,’ U.N. warns
Albinos in Malawi face ‘systematic extinction’ if they continue to be murdered so their limbs can be used in witchcraft, a UN expert has said.
At least 65 cases of violence against people with albinism, including killings and dismemberment, have been recorded by police in the country since late 2014.
There are an estimated 10,000 albinos in Malawi, out of a population of 16.5m. In nearby Tanzania, a full set of albino body parts can sell for more than $70.000.
Ikponwosa Ero, the UN’s independent expert on human rights and albinism, said the persecution ‘constitutes an emergency, a crisis disturbing in its proportions’.
Her call for action came as a court in Malawi jailed two men for 17 years after they murdered a 21-year-old albino woman because they had been told to do so by ‘Satan’.
After a 12-day assessment of the treatment of albinos in the country, Ero said the crisis required an ’emergency response’ from the Malawian government.
She said she was ‘particularly alarmed’ by reports that people with albinism are being called ‘money’ passers-by on the street.
‘Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries and the sale of body parts of persons with albinism is believed to be very lucrative.
‘It is thought that albinos can increase wealth, make businesses prosper or facilitate employment.
‘Even in death, they do not rest in peace as their remains are robbed from graveyards.’
Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder, are regularly killed in several other African countries including Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Albinism affects 20,000 people worldwide, but is more common in sub-Saharan Africa.
Attacks against albinos are particularly brutal, at times involving victims being dismembered alive.
In one case described in the report, a 17-year-old boy, called Alfred, was found in a pool of blood after being stabbed by machete-wielding attackers.
Ero, who is Nigerian and herself has albinism, compared the lack of help for albinos with the huge efforts put into protecting wild animals.
She said: ‘We talk about protecting wildlife while not even prioritising efforts in protecting people with albinism.
‘They are an endangered people group facing a risk of systemic extinction over time if nothing is done.’