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Witchcraft killings of people with albinism increased during pandemic: UN expert

Mistaken belief that body parts of people with albinism can bring wealth pushes up attacks, says expert

Peter Kenny   | 29.07.2021
Witchcraft killings of people with albinism increased during pandemic: UN expert

GENEVA

Killings of people with albinism have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as many people plunged into poverty and turned to witchcraft hoping to gain quick wealth, the outgoing UN independent expert on the rights of people with albinism said on Thursday.

“Despite progress on many fronts, I was deeply saddened at the notable increase in reported cases of people with albinism being killed or attacked because of the mistaken belief that using their body parts in potions can bring good luck and wealth,” said Ikponwosa Ero.

“Even more tragically, the majority of victims have been children.”

Albinism is a rare, non-contagious pigmentation deficiency and UN information on the discrimination is mainly from Africa, but it occurs in different parts of the world.

Ero, a Nigerian, was named to the post by the Human Rights Council in 2015, and Muluka Anne Miti-Drummond of Zambia will succeed her on Aug.1.

“As I leave office, I am gratified that the Human Rights Council has, in a historic resolution, condemned harmful practices related to witchcraft and ritual attacks, but there is still much to be done,” said Ero.

Human Rights Council

Earlier this month, a UN Human Rights Council resolution condemned rights violations committed through witchcraft accusations and ritual attacks and called for international consultation and recommendations on the matter.

“I have spent the last six years battling witchcraft-related attacks against people with albinism and am gratified that there has been much progress on several continents, despite some setbacks during the pandemic,” said Ero.

She cited a regional action plan on albinism in Africa in collaboration with the African Union as progress.

In addition, awareness-raising campaigns have increased public understanding of the challenges for persons with albinism in Africa and globally, including in countries like Brazil, Japan, and Fiji.

Research on albinism has increased more than tenfold, Ero said.

She said an explosion in data and reliable information has increased understanding of how the right to health, education, disability rights, and racial discrimination pertains to people with albinism.

There is also an increased understanding of the rights of women and children impacted by albinism and the need to protect against harmful practices.

“While we have come very far in the fight against these heinous acts, the road ahead remains long and arduous,” said Ero.

“For this reason, this mandate remains crucial, and I call on states to provide all possible support to my successor,” she added.​​​​​​​

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