In some parts of Africa, a person with albinism is thought to be a demon and are often hunted down and killed. Their body parts are prized by local shamans for their mystical powers and, if they are not killed outright, they are attacked and have hands, arms, or other parts cut off. Five children from Tanzania who were mutilated for this reason have been brought to the United States to be fitted for prostheses.
Global Medical Relief Fund has brought the five children to Shriners Hospital in North Philadelphia. The small medical charity arranged for visas, travel, and room and board for the five children.
Two of the children, Kabula Nkalongo and Pendo Sengerema, had an arm cut off. Baraka Cosmas Rusambo had a hand cut off. In Philadelphia, the children are meeting with Dr. Dan Zlotolow, a specialist in hand and arm surgery. He is determining what type of prosthesis would be best for each of them.
Elissa Montanti of Staten Island founded Global Medical Relief Fund to help children who have been severely injured in war or natural disasters, but learned of these children and decided to help. She is working with Under the Same Sun, a Canadian group that is fighting to end discrimination against people with albinism.
Albinism is an inherited condition in which the hair, skin, and eyes lack pigment. In the rest of the world, it occurs in about one in every 20,000 people, but in sub-Saharan Africa, it occurs far more often, with as many as one in 1,400 children having albinism.
Some countries in Africa have taken action to stop attacks on albinos. Burundi is sheltering children with albinism under military protection, while Malawi has laws to protect them. Under Tanzanian law, attacking an albino can merit the death penalty, but the attacks keep happening because of superstition and greed. The price for body parts from an albino can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.