Albinos in Cameroon threatened due to witchcraft, superstitious beliefs

Albinos' limbs sold for $15 to $30 on black market as people believe it brings health, wealth, says head of albinos association

Ahmet Emin Donmez   | 24.11.2021
Albinos in Cameroon threatened due to witchcraft, superstitious beliefs

YAOUNDE, Cameroon 

Individuals with albinism, a condition that occurs as a result of genetic changes that partially or completely prevent the production of the melanin pigment that gives color to the skin, are threatened in Cameroon because of witchcraft and superstitious beliefs.

Albinism is seen in one out of 17,000 people globally and one out of every 5,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa. Sight problems are common among albinos who are highly vulnerable to skin cancer.

Albinos face discrimination around the world and at very high levels in Cameroon.

The nightmare of albinos in Cameroon, where witchcraft and superstitions are common, are sorcerers.

In some local traditions, it is believed that the limbs of albinos are magical and will bring good luck and health to the person who gets them, while potions made with amputated limbs of albinos are believed to be medicinal. So, albinos are exposed to violence by those that are seeking to be rich, find good fortune, or regain their health.

'Limbs sold on black market'

Kakmeni Wembou Raphael, the head of the Cameroon Association for the Promotion of Albino (CAPA), told Anadolu Agency that albino children grow up in fear as discrimination is very common in the country.

People do not know about albinism in the Central African country, Raphael noted, saying that due to superstitious beliefs related to fortune and health, albinos are kidnapped and their organs are cut off.

He went on to say that the society in Cameroon considers albinos ghosts, wizards, charlatans, or the cursed ones.

"Albinos' limbs are sold for $15 to $30 on the black market," Raphael said.

"They told my mom to put me in the attic. We, in Africa, dry our corn in the attic. They wanted to put me in the attic where they dry corn so that I would turn black again," he added.

'Everybody thinks I'm cursed'

Elementary school student Douangni Sandrine, who could not hold back her tears while describing the difficulties she experienced, said no one wanted to be friends with her and that she is always lonely.

"Everyone thinks I'm cursed," she lamented.

"My family rejected me. My family doesn't want to see me. No matter what I do, they ignore it because I'm an albino. I have no dignity in their eyes," said Njoko kom Sandra.

Meanwhile, Chamga Rostand, a history teacher, said that although there are no more abductions and killings as before, these rituals continue.

"We found the body of an albino girl next to the trash can. Half the body was gone. Certainly, half of the corpse was used for rituals of sorcerers. Because they believe that laying the cut limbs of an albino on the foundation of construction, the house will be prosperous, many people will want to rent it, and that the tenants will pay a lot of money,” Rostand said.

Skin cancer

In addition to social problems they experience, albinos with sensitive skin easily get skin cancer if they do not protect themselves from the sun.

"Some 80% of albinos in sub-Saharan Africa die of skin cancer," according to Raphael.

There is sunshine throughout the year in Africa, Raphael stressed, noting that many albinos in Cameroon cannot afford sunscreen due to high prices.

Regular health checks, access to sunglasses, and sunscreen creams are important for albinos to continue their healthy lives.

*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara

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