How lack of data hampers PWA protection in Africa

28Jun 2016
Francis Kajubi
The Guardian
How lack of data hampers PWA protection in Africa

Lack of adequate statistics of persons with albinism is one of the big challenges facing Africa, stakeholders fighting against discrimination and brutal killings of persons with Albinism have found out.

Participants to a forum on issues of People With Albinism (PWA)

A consultative forum of Action on Albinism in Africa is of the view that many African countries have not yet conducted adequate sensors of persons with albinism in both regions and countries.

There is however no statistics obtained yet through scientific research to identify which countries are leading in the killings of persons with albinism in the continent, instead there is a tendency of estimation according to the number of incidents reported only by the media in the respective countries.

The consultation basically focused on discussing new actions associated with the well-being of persons with albinism in Africa against the killings. The cited actions included protective actions, preventive actions, accountability and actions against discrimination.

Addressing the problem on lack of adequate statistics of persons with albinism incurring African countries, Director of Community Support, Amadeus Kamagenge of Tanzania Social Action Fund (Tasaf) in the President’s Office said that the time has come for the civil society organisations dealing with persons with albinism, to work hand in hand with Tasaf because it is the credible source on statistics of people living in urban and rural areas including those with albinism.

‘We do meet these people after every three months and educate the society they live with including doctors and nurses, teachers, students, police officers and others.

As long as we have above 15 per cent record of Tanzanians living in rural areas we urge our home NGOs like Under The Same Sun and Tanzania Albino Society to cooperate with us so as they can be provided with the statistics they lack. There is no logic for them to lack statistics of people with albinism especially in Tanzania while our records are there,’ Kamagenge said.

Witchcraft belief rooted in many African communities was also cited as another big challenge that contributes at large the killings of persons with albinism.

“Attacks against persons with albinism for the sale of their body parts continue to occur across the continent due to ignorance about the scientific basis of albinism, and also insufficient government responses,” Ikponoswa Ero, the UN Independent Expert on Albinism, said.

“The human rights issues faced by persons with albinism are an emergency in several countries in the region and it should be treated as such with specific and effective action directed at it,” Ero added.

Trade on chopped body parts of persons with albinism had spread nearly to all African countries. Under The Same Sun 2012 report shows since 2006 witchcraft beliefs have led to 75 persons with albinism being brutally killed in Tanzania for their body parts, used in witchcraft rituals thought to bestow good fortune and weath,56 survived from being killed from whom 11 were mutilated again.

In Malawi attacks against persons with albinism are increasing rapidly. Nearly 18 persons with albinism have been killed since 2014 while other 5 were not found.

Paul Butao from the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Malawi admits that there is mass killing of persons with albinism in his nation.

“Better African government view the importance of identifying traditional healers and the communities being informed about the place they are located so as it can be easy to tress witchdoctors who collaborate with the seekers and of persons with albinism, he said.

“The same applies in Malawi. we don’t have adequate number of persons with albinism, for instance 45 attempts to kill persons with albinism were reported in 2014 though the number is said to be bigger than that. So there is a need for African nations to work on sensor of these people,” Butao asserted.

The National Director and Founder of Albinism Society of South Africa, Nomasonto Masibuko said that the killings and discrimination of persons with albinism in Africa normally fall and rise.

Again efforts to combat it have not yet been considered to the maximum by African government though changing the attitude of Africans against albinism from the grassroots to the nations levels.

Masibuko argues that many Africans still believe that persons with albinism never die but they do disappear. “The problem is that many African communities still believe that persons with albinism never die thus the myth drive them into believing that chopping albino’s organs might bring them good luck of accumulating a huge amount of wealth,” Masibuko said.

“This common myth needs a big campaign to uproot it in people’s understandings especially in rural or remote areas,” she added.

Speaking of the situation in Kenya, Jane Waithera, Programme Director of Positive Exposure said that there is no law or act in the constitution to be applied in court of law against those who put in danger the lives of persons with albinism, proposing for the government to take actions immediately.

They have also to come up with a method on how they are going to conduct sensor of persons with albinism in the whole country.

Skin Cancer is another challenge still affecting persons with albinism in some African countries. The 2015 Standing Voice-Tanzania’s publications states that only two per cent of Tanzanians with albinism reach the age of 40 due to skin cancer. In Western countries one in 20,000 people have some form of albinism.

In Tanzania, however, there is a much higher rate of one in 3,000.98 per cent of persons with albinism in Tanzania die before the age of 40 from skin cancer.

A consultation forum on albinism in Africa agreed on some actions to be implemented for the well-being of the persons with albinism. Among the actions, stakeholders agreed on the governments and NGOs dealing with concept of albinism to provide construction material such as cement and iron bars to build graves in which persons with albinism are buried.

The logic is to prevent excavation of graves from the body organ hunters who seek the organs for sale. As matter of fact, families with people with albinism will be given strong doors and windows with padlocks so as to avoid entrance of murderers since the majority of homes of people with albinism are not well built.

The second action is to appoint and offer special trainings to some of the existing prosecutors and investigators from the court of law and police staff.

The training will be aimed at offering knowledge on importance of immediate or urgent dealing of cases of crimes against people with albinism while using fair trial procedures.

“Most cases go unreported due to the secrecy of witchcraft practices, family corroborations and the likely involvement of the rich and powerful,” Ero said at the consultation.Ero said that a recent Civi Society report cited nearly 500 attacks on persons with albinism in 25 countries across African countries,reported cases only.
Stakeholders argued that the action will protect the witness and encourage testimonies in court.

The Forum also resolved to work with International Police(Interpol) and Immigration Officers to contro the movement of people with albinism through Tanzanian borders. The agreed action are expected to be adopted by African nations at the next African Union meeting.

Stakeholders from civil society pledged to convince the government from which they come to make sure that sensors of persons with albinism are conducted since they are important for plans and policies of preventing and protecting persons with albinism from killings.

To make sure that the delivering of high vision supporting apparatus are available and provision of body lotion to avoid skin cancer.

“Since we have on table the list of special actions with excellence, which are easy to be implemented, governments should not set excuses on what to do, through this forum we did everything and make things easier for them. So, its time to stand up and act and say no more excuses,” Ero said.

The forum was hosted by UN Independent expert Ikponoswa Ero and attended by over 150 participants including representatives from the governments, Civil Society Organisations, National Human Rights Institutions, Academics and Human Rights Specialists from 29 African countries.

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