Life as an Albino in Africa
Witch doctors target Tanzanians with albinism but sun is the biggest enemy.
By DANA HUGHES
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, July 9, 2008 —
Like most middle-class 14-year-old girls in Tanzania, Joyce Charles enjoys hanging out
with her friends, going to school and watching television. But she has albinism, a
condition that leaves her without any pigmentation -- white skin, bleach-blond hair and
pale blue eyes.
She sticks out in a crowd of her black peers, which is about more than just being
different: It's increasingly dangerous.
In Tanzania, like most of sub-Saharan Africa, people with the hereditary condition are
often thought of as having supernatural powers, which makes them a target.
At least 20 Tanzanians have been murdered this year alone, mutilated for their body
parts, which are then sold on the black market by witch doctors. The estimated 170,000
albinos in Tanzania are on edge, feeling as if they are being hunted.
Joyce was almost a victim.
A few weeks ago on her way to school in Dar es Salaam, she was spotted by human
poachers. "Two men passed by riding on a bicycle, and I heard them saying, 'When you
take that lady, you are going to become rich,'" she says.
"After a few minutes a man standing beside me asked me if I knew the two men who
were across the road. I told him no, and he told me to be aware of them since they were
talking and pointing towards us."
Shaken, she ran home and stayed home from school that day.
"I feared because I have heard many times before that albinos have been killed," she says.
"When I saw the two men pointing towards me, I feared that the same would happen to
Her mother, Yustina Mloka Charles, says that Joyce is no longer allowed to walk outside
their neighborhood without an adult accompanying her. Charles's sister takes her to