Tanzanian albino children attacked for body parts face return home from USA

Wed Sep 30, 2015 5:53pm EDT
 
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Shy, soft-spoken Mwigulu Magesa, missing an arm from a brutal attack in Tanzania where albinos are targeted for their body parts, wants to be president some day and knows exactly what he will do when he takes office.

"If someone does such a thing like chopping a body part of a person with albinism or killing a person with albinism, he is sentenced to death the same day," the 12-year-old boy said in Swahili through an interpreter.

"By hanging them," he added in a stronger voice.

For now, Mwigulu's days are filled with more cheery thoughts as he and three other Tanzanian children wrap up a summer in New York being fitted with prosthetic limbs and learning the simple childhood joys of splashing in a pool and playing backyard soccer.

But in the next few days Mwigulu, along with Pendo Noni, 15, Emmanuel Rutema, 13, and 5-year-old Baraka Lusambo will return to Tanzania, where people with albinism live in danger.

Albino body parts are highly valued in witchcraft and can fetch a high price. Superstition leads many to believe albino children are ghosts who bring bad luck.

Some believe the limbs are more potent if the victims scream during amputation, according to a 2013 United Nations report.

Albinism is a congenital disorder affecting about one in 20,000 people worldwide who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes. It is more common in sub-Saharan Africa and affects about one Tanzanian in 1,400.   Continued...

 
13-year-old Emmanuel Festo from Tanzania poses for a portrait with a plush toy that he says makes him feel safe at night and that he sleeps with, in the Staten Island borough of New York in the Staten Island borough of New York, September 21, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri