In certain parts of Africa, having albinism means living in under constant fear of being attacked and having your limbs chopped off. Despite being in the 21st century, many traditional communities in Tanzania and other regions believe albinos have magical powers. In fact, there is an entire black market for albino body parts, as they are thought to be a potent magical ingredient that could bring luck to the user.
Approximately one in every 20,000 children is born with albinism – a genetic disorder that leaves people with little or no pigment in their skin or eyes – but the condition is more common in Tanzania where around one in 15,000 people carry the gene.
One of the many victims of these inhumane atrocities is a little boy named Baraka Cosmas Lusambo, whose hand was sliced off by men who barged into his family’s home in western Tanzania and knocked his mother unconscious.
“We were simply sleeping when someone just arrived,” he recalled. “They came to me with machetes.”
The children have been in the U.S. since June, though once they receive their new limbs, they will return to Tanzania. However, this time around, they'll live in safe houses run by nonprofit group Under the Same Sun. GMRF will bring them back to the states to get new prostheses as they grow older.
“They're not getting their arm back,” Elissa Montanti, founder of the Global Medical Relief Fund, said. “But they are getting something that is going help them lead a productive life and be part of society and not be looked upon as a freak or that they are less than whole.”
During their stay in the U.S., the kids took full advantage of summer fun. They spent time in a swimming pool for the first time, had a barbecue night and even went out sightseeing. Montanti says she has come to love these kids as her own.
Meanwhile, the Tanzanian government has been trying to curb the attack on albinos for quite some time now. They even outlawed witch doctors in hopes to curb the attacks, but it wasn’t enough to stop the violence.
Kabula Nkarango Masanja, one of the other victims, constantly thinks about her right arm, which was chopped by the attackers after her family was unable to pay them the money they asked for.
“I feel bad because I still don’t know what they did with my arm, where it is, what benefits they derived from it – or if they simply dumped it,” said the 17-year-old.
Although these children have to return to the place that changed their lives for worse once the procedure is over, they’ll hopefully be more protected than they were before.