Albino Tanzania
In Tanzania, Albinos are hunted as witch doctors believe their body parts are essential ingredients for potions to be successful Reuters

Albinism is a genetically inherited condition that prevents the body from producing melanin, the pigment that colours skin, hair and eyes.

In Tanzania, people affected by albinism are persecuted and killed as there is a widespread belief their body parts are essential ingredients for black magic potions.

In order to curb the killings and end the stigmatisation of albinos, Tanzania banned witch doctors, accused of enhancing such discrimination by convincing people albinos' body parts must be used to make charms and bring good luck.

As people with albinism in Tanzania are often regarded as non-human, those who kill them are not considered murderers and thus they are rarely prosecuted.

In a 2013 report on albinism, the UN said of the 72 documented cases of murders of albinos in Tanzania since 2000, only five cases are known to have resulted in successful prosecutions.

According to Coumba Makalou Keita, executive director of the Mali-based Salif Keita Global Foundation, which works to achieve fair treatment and social integration of people with albinism, the persecution of albinos is widespread in several African countries.

"Tanzania has been the best country in terms of documenting the persecution, but incidents are happening everywhere in Africa, including in Mali," she told IBTimes UK.

Keita said SKGF welcomed the Tanzania's ban on witchcraft.

She said: "We spoke with the government in Mali about putting a ban on witch doctors, but there is a lot of resistance so we are very proud of Tanzania and we hope it could influence other countries."

However, she added that a lack of education and misconceptions also must be addressed to successfully tackle the persecution of albinos.

Albinos are seen as ghosts

Albinos are not considered as human beings, Keita explained, and they are often regarded as ghosts.

She said: "Many people believe that albinism is a spiritual problem and not a genetic disorder. They believe that albinism can be separated from the body and there is a value in the albinos' blood.

"Some people call albinos 'walking ghosts' as they think that they don't really die, so they cannot really be killed. That's the justification for their murders. Killing albinos is not seen as homicide."

The high reliance on witchcraft of many populations in Africa is one of the main causes of the albino killings.

"There is always an element of traditional witchcraft that exists in African societies regardless of the official religion in the country," Keita explained. "In Mali, for example, most people have contact with witch doctors and this is accepted, it's considered almost necessary because certain beliefs prior modern religions have never been fully wiped away.

"Many believe that in order to enhance their lives and to get what they want, they need the assistance of someone who has contact with the spiritual world.

"It's very challenging to find out what happens to albinos but hundreds of them disappear every year."

Education is the key to defeat persecution

The persecution of albinos stems also from stereotypes. "In many African countries people rarely know what albinos are," Keita said. "What we are trying to do is to educate people about albinism.

"There are cases of families who happen to have albino children and they do not want to kill them, but they may indirectly harm the children because they don't understand what albinism means.

"They don't know, for example, that albinos cannot work in the fields under the sun due to their condition. They do not understand why their skin turns red, why they get blisters and they need special care.

"Education is the key to defeat stigmatisation. People who are educated are not going to kill albinos because they understand that they were simply born with a genetic condition."