Criminals in Kitwe, Zambia hacked off and fled with the hand of a seven year-old girl with albinism. The assault, believed to be a ritual attack has caused an outrage in Zambia, and on social media with prominent campaigners on albinism coming out to strongly condemn the senseless violent act.
Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga Charity Katanga confirmed the attack, saying the assailants who are still at large used a machete to chop off the girl’s hand. Katanga confirmed that the child’s father, Joseph Mulenga, 27, reported that his daughter aged seven had her left hand chopped off above the elbow by “criminals who forced their way through the window into the the bedroom where the victim was sleeping with the sister. The assailants forcibly dragged the 7-year-old albino outside into the nearby bush”.
According to Zambia Reports, Commissioner Katanga said Mulenga and his wife were sleeping in the main bedroom when they were awoken by screaming coming from the other bedroom, where their children slept. “When they woke up to check [on] their children, they saw a man jumping through the window while carrying their albino daughter and when they rushed outside to follow they saw three unknown male persons armed with a machete running towards the nearby bush with their 7-year old albino daughter,” Commissioner Katanga said.
The victim was reportedly rushed to Kitwe teaching hospital where she is admitted awaiting to undergo surgery.
There are more than 25,000 people living with albinism in Zambia. The Albino Foundation of Zambia (AFZ) has been advocating for the equal treatment of people living with albinism. The organisation has also been campaigning to debunk and stop the misconceptions that body parts of people with albinism can bring wealth or luck.
Foundation Executive Director John Chiti condemned the attack and said it is unfortunate that over three attacks of the same nature have been recorded this year alone.
Violence and stigma aimed at people with albinism is widespread. Due to general ignorance and myths associated with the condition, there is still a stigma surrounding people with albinism, resulting in discrimination, dehumanisation and isolation. Some communities believe that people living with albinism are “ghosts” or have magical powers; that they are the result of incest or a curse. People living with albinism are therefore often victims of hate crimes such as beheading as their body parts are used in witchcraft rituals. This stems from the superstition that they can bring riches, success, power or sexual conquest. Children are especially vulnerable to these crimes.
These stereotypes and superstitions are especially prevalent in Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa, where there is a larger population of people living with albinism.
The United Nations reports that Sub-Saharan Africa has more people with albinism with an estimated 1 in 1,400 people being affected in Tanzania and prevalence as high as 1 in 1,000 reported for select populations in Zimbabwe. Albinism is still profoundly misunderstood, socially and medically leading to an unsafe environment for people with albinism particularly in Africa.