The title reads, “Hunting for Humans: Malawi albinos murdered for their bones,” an article written by CNN only a few weeks ago as the Malawian people struggle with a terrifying and ongoing ritual. The report goes on to state that April was one of the bloodiest months on record, indicating that four people were captured, murdered, and butchered for their body parts, including an infant.
Those with albinism have had a long history of pain and fear across the African continent. Albinism in Malawi is quite rare and if you are born with the genetic abnormality, you are considered a “freak”, “outcast”, and, in many cases, “magical”. The perception of albinos as carrying supernatural abilities is the main reason some Malawians are hunting them in this landlocked country, trying any and everything to increase their success in life. From the criminals hunting down and delivering albinos to clients for a lucrative amount of money to witch doctors promising a healing potion that will cure any woe, the risk of having your life taken is real.
CNN went on to tell the story of one of the victims, a young soul of only 17, Davis Fletcher Machinjiri who was out for the day enjoying his soccer game with friends only never to return. The police reported that two men tailed young Machinjiri, abducted him, murdered him, and chopped off both of his arms and legs, removing his bones for profit.
A common story in the albino community and a heart wrenching fact of life for many with albinism living across Africa. Over the years, it is reported that thousands of people have met their death at the hands of criminals looking to make a quick buck, politicians hoping for a re-election, or common countrymen looking for a cure.
According to the International Red Cross, “Albinism is more common in sub-Saharan Africa than elsewhere in the world. Superstitions about the condition are rife, especially in Malawi and neighboring Tanzania and Mozambique. Some believe that having sex with an albino woman can cure HIV, which puts albino women at particular risk for rape. Others believe that the bones of albino people contain gold, or have medicinal or even magical properties. That demand, stemming from a ritual medicine revival in Malawi, is fueling the spate of murders by gangs that, allegedly, can make as much as $75,000 selling a “full set” of albino body parts.”
With an increase in recent murders, many of the albino residents in Malawi are fleeing their homes to find a new place they can call home that offers both safety and security. One of the most popular safe havens for the albino population lies just north of Malawi on an island located on the northern tip of Tanzania called Ukerewe Island. But getting to this island poses just as many threats as living in your own home due to the dangers of crossing the countryside of Tanzania, another well known hot spot for harvesting albino body parts for ritual.
Unfortunately, with limited options, more people are risking their lives every day to make the voyage and find a place that offers protection and improves their quality of life. As the world continues to urge local governments to step up their judicial scrutiny, enforce laws against these practices, and lead the country towards change. Every day a person lives in fear of being murdered simply for having a genetic condition that does not allow their body to produce melanin.