International Albinism Awareness Day commemorated in Tanzania

Dar es salaam, June 13, 2017. The International Albinism Awareness Day was commemorated in Dodoma the capital City of Tanzania where the Minister of State in the Prime Ministers’s Officer, Ms. Jenister Mhagama was the Guest of Honor.  This event has been commemorated for the past three years and supported by the United Nations member states around the world who organize public events to observe this day.

On 18 December 2014, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming, with effect from 2015, 13 June as International Albinism Awareness Day, Calling for the prevention of attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism.

The UNICEF Tanzania Deputy Representative, Mr. Rene Van Dongen delivered a Statement on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator, Alvaro Rodriguez during the International Albinism Awareness Day event earlier in the afternoon.

In part Van Dongen reminded the audience why this day was commemorated, “The mandate of the independent expert on enjoyment of human rights by people with albinism created by the Human Right Council on 10 April 2015 reaffirmed that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person and that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. It is also recalled the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelated of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and the need for persons with albinism to be guaranteed the full enjoyment of their rights and freedom without discrimination.

Specifically, the Unicef Deputy Representative highlighted the need to protect children, He said “On this International Day of Awareness for people with albinism, we want to highlight the importance of ensuring that all children, including children with albinism, are cared for and protected in families and communities that have their best interest at heart. Let us give some thought to children with albinism who are still staying in the special centers away from their families and communities. Let us renew our commitment today to bring those children safely back to their families and communities, attending schools that can address their special needs.”

UNIC-Dar es salaam, earlier conducted interviews with people with albinism from the Tanzania Albinism Society and shared the interviews with people in Tanzania and UN media.  People with Albinism are concerned about the attacks which seem to heighten during General elections-linking it to politicians although no direct evidence has been tabled before law enforcement agencies.

Under The Same Sun is a Non-Governmental Organisation that has been on the lead with the campaign against attacks of people with Albinism. The Executive Director of Under the Same Sun, Vicky Ntetema who previously reported for BBC, once disguised herself before a traditional witch-doctor who revealed that most of the customers were indeed politicians and wealthy business men.

Attacks against people with albinism have taken place in the past because of traditional beliefs that body parts of people with albinism will make people rich or politically powerful. A belief which has led to several attacks and killings against people with albinism in Tanzania and across the Eastern African region. Despite the increased awareness among the society due to various joint advocacy efforts, more still needs to be done to avoid falling back into further attacks.

The Albinism in Africa conference held from 19-21 June, 2016 at the Courtyard Protea Hotel in Dar es Salaam under the leadership of the UN Independent Expert on People with Albinism came up with recommendations for African countries to enforce towards the protection of people with Albinism.

The society is encouraged to be aware of this day and the life beyond the commemoration where people need to come together as one to protect people with albinism from being discriminated, targeted and killed.

On March 21, 2017 four Tanzanian children with albinism were taken to America for treatment and their chopped limbs were partially replaced using artificial limbs. This effort of Under the Same Sun should be emulated.  Better still countries need to provide jobs to people with Albinism and support them in articulating their issues.

Kenya and Tanzania have shown leadership in this areas through electing people with Albinism to represent at the House of Parliament.  In Kenya Hon. Peter Mwaura is doing good service articulating the rights of people with albinism and disabilities.  In Tanzania, Dr. Abdallah Possy(in picture) was nominated MP, Deputy Minister in the Prime Ministers’s office responsible for people with disabilities and later appointed Ambassador of Tanzania to Germany and a number of Other Eastern European countries. This is one step ahead to also motivate people with albinism.

People with Albinism in Tanzania enjoy freedom of speech.  There are discussions around containing children with albinism in special centers.  Critics have blamed these centers like Buhangija Center in Shinyanga region, Western Tanzania to be dumping points by parent of albino children who sometimes never return to see their children, leaving responsibilities with Government.  Other critics have argued that is better to reintegrate these children in the families so that they enjoy parental love and live in normal family settings but under greater protection.

Government legislation is strict on offenders, however few perpetrators have been put to book due to the nature of the surrounding environment.  Many times attacked children with albinism live in rural settings that are not always accessible. It is only through joint efforts- including media awareness campaigns that Tanzania and surrounding countries will tackle this challenge to humanity.

Please join a social media campaign is going on under the hash tag #NotGhosts

ENDS!