UN official says 10,000 albinos in Malawi face extinction

UN expert on albinism warns that around 10,000 albinos face "extinction" in Malawi if they continue to be murdered for their body parts for use in superstition.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

An albino boy sits between his two parents at their home in Malawi.

The United Nation’s top expert on albinism said on Friday during her first official visit in her new role that people with albinism in Malawi are at risk of "systemic extinction" due to relentless attacks ignited by superstitions.

Ikponwosa Ero, who is from Nigeria and has albinism, took the job as the UN's first independent expert on the issue last August. 

Ero said, at least 65 cases of violence against people with albinism including killings and dismemberment have been recorded by police in Malawi since late 2014.

Around 10,000 people out of Malawi’s population of 16.5 million have albinism.

The situation amounted to "an emergency, a crisis disturbing in its proportions", Ero said.

She said people with albinism are "an endangered people group facing a risk of systemic extinction over time if nothing is done."

"We talk about protecting wildlife while not even prioritising efforts in protecting people with albinism," she said.

Ero was particularly shocked during her Malawi trip by an encounter with a teenage boy, Alfred.
He hadn't recovered and stopped attending school since the attack. "You wonder what will become of this person," said Ero.

Last year, Alfred 17-year-old, with albinism had been found in a pool of blood after being stabbed during his sleep by machete-wielding attackers.

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.

This year, several attacks against people with albinism have also been reported in Burundi, Mozambique and Zambia, according to Under the Same Sun, a Canadian advocacy charity. 

TRTWorld, Reuters