What is Albinism?
Albinism is a hereditary condition that results in a lack of pigmentation in skin, hair, and eyes.

This inherited condition is characterized by a lack of the pigment melanin, resulting in pale skin, light hair, pale eyes and impaired vision. Both parents must carry the gene in order to pass it on, but they may not have albinism themselves. Although in Europe and North America approximately 1 in 20,000 people has albinism, the rates are higher in Africa, with about 1 in 1,400 occurrences in Tanzania.

The term “Person with albinism” is preferred over “albino” as it puts the person ahead of their condition.

Learn about the issues that affect people with albinism in Africa
Discrimination & Rejection
A person with albinism in sub-Saharan Africa faces discrimination, isolation and even abandonment.

The every-day life of a person with albinism in Africa is too often characterized by loneliness, poverty and rejection. Children with albinism are stared at and made fun of by their peers.

Many husbands desert their wives when they give birth to a child with albinism. The parent's superstitions may lead them to completely abandon or even kill their newborns. Well-meaning but fearful parents may lock away their children with albinism, isolating them from making friends, going to school and living a normal childhood. For those who do go to school, low-vision leads to high dropout rates. Adults with albinism are shunned and passed over for jobs. Poverty is rampant.

Superstition & Witchcraft
Dangerous myths and stigma surround people with albinism.

In Tanzania, people with albinism are called zeru zeru, meaning “ghosts.” It is assumed by some that these “ghosts” bleed a different colour, or even that they are immortal. These dangerous beliefs incite the brutal attacks against people with albinism. A baby born with albinism may be considered a curse and be killed.

Witchdoctors take advantage of the ignorance and superstitions, fuelling beliefs that people with albinism possess magical qualities. They spread the lie that the body parts of people with albinism used in charms and potions bring wealth, power and good luck.

Albinism around the world
Human Rights Abuse & Attacks
People with albinism may be attacked and killed for their body parts.

Since 2006, more than 520 attacks on people with albinism in 28 countries have been recorded. At more than 170 incidents, Tanzania has the largest recorded number of attacks. There is a black market for body parts, hair and skin used by witchdoctors in potions and charms. The nature of attacks can range from maiming, to death, to desecrating a grave.

Young Miriam was killed in her home while she slept. Her 8-year old brother Manyasi watched in horror from under the bed.

15-year old Pendo lost her right arm in an attack by 3 men with machetes while having supper with her family.

Baby Yohana was taken after assailants slashed his mother’s face, and ripped him from her arms. His dismembered body was found 2 days later.

28 year old Mariamu was betrayed by her neighbour in an attack that cost her both arms and her unborn baby's life.

Paul’s grave was robbed 3 years after his death of skin cancer at age 21.

Danger! Election Year!
Election years are particulary unsafe for people with albinism.

There is an increased demand for body parts of people with albinism in the lead-up to elections when people running for office – people who are wealthy and educated – may turn to witch doctors for good luck potions. The people who harvest the parts are usually impoverished and willing to do something dreadful simply to make a bit of money. These criminals can gain up to $75,000 U.S. for the sale of a whole body according to the U.N. Few attackers and witchdoctors have been brought to trial, let alone convicted. Not one buyer in this macabre trade has ever been prosecuted.

Where have the attacks happened?
Attacks in Africa
Tanzania has the highest recorded number of attacks at over 170.
Map of Africa: The countries in red are those where violent attacks against person with albinism occurred.
Health Issues
Health problems makes it difficult to lead a normal life if you have albinism.

Albinism affects the structure and pigmentation of the eye, causing visual impairment ranging from mild to severe. Many people with albinism are legally blind. All have extreme sensitivity to light. People with albinism are much more susceptible to skin cancer because the lack of melanin in their skin leaves them unprotected from the sun. Most children with albinism as young as 10 in sub-Saharan Africa have some form of early-stage skin cancer and only 2% live beyond age 40. Many are not aware of the danger from the sun and how to protect themselves. They may also not have access to sunscreen.

In Remembrance
This monument in Sengerema, Tanzania stands near the epicenter of attacks against people with albinism, to honor those who have been violently assaulted and killed.

The life-sized metal statue, made by Tanzanian artists with disabilities, looks to the future. The statue depicts a pigmented father holding his child with albinism on his shoulders while a pigmented mother puts a wide brimmed hat on the child’s head to protect him from the sun. It portrays an integrated family living a normal life, anticipating the day when people with albinism in Tanzania will live normal lives, free of the deadly discrimination that haunts them today. As a memorial, the names of those who have been attacked are etched around it.

UTSS Latest News

November 16th, 2017
The Perils of Pale
Read National Geographic Magazine's in-depth coverage on the issues facing people with albinism in Tanzania.
October 30th, 2017
How your giving helps
Find out some of the ways your gifts make a difference.
October 26th, 2017
A quick update from UTSS
Read about three important events that we think will interest you.
October 26th, 2017
UTSS call for Tanzanian government to enact laws to provide strong punishment on attackers
Under the Same Sun country representative Vicky Ntetema said attacks on albinos were persisting due to lenient punishment against perpetrators.
October 26th, 2017
Unknown thugs chop off left hand of 75-year-old man with albinism
Mr. Nassor Mohammed, a 75 year old grandpa was attacked by unidentified thugs on Monday October 2, 2017.
October 26th, 2017
Tanzanian police arrest two for kidnapping child with albinism.
Tanzanian police have arrested a Tanzanian citizen and a Kenyan national for abducting a five-year old child with albinism in northern Tanzania’s district of Mwanga.
October 26th, 2017
Cop batters wife over birth of child with albinism
A police officer in Zimbabwe has been arrested following reports of domestic abuse stemming from the birth of a child with albinism.
October 26th, 2017
Killings of PWA in Malawi continues despite the government's intervention
Several persons with albinism in Malawi have come out to talk about their harrowing experiences with merciless body part hunters who are known to sell albino body parts to witch doctors.
October 26th, 2017
New book details the kidnapping of the Muse brothers
The story of two brothers with albinism that were kidnapped from the cotton fields and sold to a freak show in 1899.
June 13th, 2017
We are people too.
Read the Newsweek editorial written by UTSS Founder & CEO, Peter Ash, on his experience as a person with albinism and the persecution that PWA still face in many parts of the world.