Tanzania: “Reported attacks against persons with albinism decline, but root causes still rife in rural areas” – UN expert

People with albinism continue to live in a very fragile situation, as the root causes of the attacks against them remain rampant

The UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, said more work was 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 at the end of her 11-day visit to Tanzania. “People are still living in fear, particularly in rural areas.”

However, Ms. Ero welcomed a drop in the number of reported attacks and praised the Government for its work to tackle the issue – which is rooted in the mistaken belief that the body parts of people with albinism have value in witchcraft practices.“I welcome the measures already taken by the Government and civil society, and the decrease in the number of reported attacks,” she said. “There have been positive measures to address witchcraft practices, including the registration of traditional healers.”“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 Independent Expert noted.

Ms. Ero highlighted that skin cancer, rather than attacks, was one of the biggest threat to the lives of people with albinism, and said it was another area where more could be done.“It is heartening to see the Government working in partnership with civil society in health and education, most notably in providing visual aids and in the use of mobile clinics to prevent skin cancer,” she said.“But these programmes are in dire need of stronger Government involvement, to reach more people and to ensure that the work is sustained.”Ms. Ero also highlighted concerns over the use of schools as protection centres for children with albinism, which in some cases have evolved from temporary shelters into long-term accommodation.

“Despite the good protective intentions in referring children with albinism to school-based shelters, it appears that they are no longer temporary,” she said.“Students who go on to secondary school or college have no choice other than to return to the shelters during school holidays as they are simply too afraid to go back to their own homes,” the expert said. “I received similar reports concerning primary school-aged children boarding at these shelters.”Ms. Ero welcomed a significant reduction in the overall number of children in the shelters, and praised the authorities for their efforts to reunite the children and their families, but added that more work remained to be done.“The Government must continue educating the public and and strengthening protection measures, as it appears that some communities and families are not ready to receive these children back,” she noted.

During her mission to Tanzania, Ms. Ero met with various high-level officials and civil society organizations. She visited the capital Dodoma and the biggest city Dar es Salaam, and also travelled to the north of the country to visit Mwanza, Shinyanga, Kigoma and Kasulu.  She met people with albinism, including those who had suffered attacks, and their family members.The Independent Expert, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, investigates all rights violations against people with albinism in different countries, including assaults, living in fear of attack and being left behind in development goals. She also identifies and promotes good practices, and combats the stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices which lead to human rights abuses.She will present a full report and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in March 2018.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).