Features

Superstition affects albino community

CHILUFYA Nkole (left) with a friend

ZIO MWALE, Lusaka
CHILUFYA Nkole, a 13-year-old albino of Lusaka’s Zanimuone township is no longer comfortable around any other person apart from his fellow albinos.
After three failed attempts to kidnap him by unknown people who seemingly wanted to use him for rituals, Chilufya says he is traumatised and is unable to talk to other people freely or go to school.
The discomfort he feels is obvious during the interview, as he constantly glances around and prefers to be close to his friends.
His eyes barely looking up, he sits close to his friend, also an albino, and courageously shares with the Zambia Daily Mail some of the experiences he has endured.
Chilufya narrates that on August 20 this year, he left home in the afternoon to play with his friends within Zanimoune.
As he was heading back home alone in the evening, he noticed a vehicle following him until it stopped at a place where there was nobody else but him on the road.
“I was coming from playing with my friends, [then] some men stopped me. They pretended to be looking for someone in our township, they called me [but] I tried avoiding them,” he explained.
When the men in the car started calling him, he screamed for help while running away but the vehicle kept following.
Chilufya said two men pursued on foot and attempted to grab him but he escaped after his loud screams attracted some people.
“I narrated this to my mother but we did not report the incident to the police because according to her, it was obvious that nothing could be done,” he says.
After news of the incident spread in the community, a concerned citizen opted to report the matter to the Albino Multi- Purpose Cooperative of Zambia, an organistion established to protect albinos and other marginalised communities in the country.
Chilufya’s mother, Angela Nkole, who has two albino children; Chilufya and his younger sister, explained that her son has been attacked on three occasions and has only survived by the grace of God.
“I have two albino children, the other is a girl but these people [attackers] have always been following the boy. My child is not safe anymore because whenever I do not see him around, I think that he has been kidnapped,” she said.
Ms Nkole said her son is not free to mingle with other people because he is scared of losing his life.
“My child is now mentally and emotionally injured, he even hesitates to play with his friends because he thinks they will hand him [over] to the killers, he is scared of everyone apart from me and his fellow albinos” she said
Though such stories are not very common in Zambia, incidents have been recorded in other countries such as Tanzania, Malawi and even Mozambique.
People living with albinism are allegedly targeted and their body parts are said to be used in rituals because of superstitions that they can bring riches, success and power.
It is said that young children with albinism are a major target for such rituals as it is believed their body parts are more valuable.
Even though the Albino Multi-Purpose Cooperative of Zambia has come on board to support Chilufya with security services, Ms Nkole still fears for her children.
Cooperative chairperson Ram Auerbach said after the organisation received a report that Chilufya was attacked by three men in Zanimuone area, it was decided that security services be provided for him.
“It was devastating when we heard about the attack that happened to the boy. Shockingly, that was the third time, the second time it happened made him drop out of school,” he shared.
He explained that people living with albinism have become vulnerable because of local superstitions that their body parts can be used to make charms and spells that are believed to bring good luck and wealth.
“Our organistion will not allow albinos to be taken advantage of, we shall endeavor to sponsor, protect and support them because they are also human beings who deserve life,” Mr Auerbach said.
“We shall provide about K400 every month as an organisation for security purposes. We cannot let the boy stop school because of these killers, someone [a security guard] will be found to protect him,” he assured.
He explained that his organisation mainly focuses on acting as the voice of the albino society in Zambia in all spheres of life especially in the context of the socio-economy where they are mainly marginalised and stigmatised.
He urged the police in the area to also intensify patrols to guarantee security in the community.
Chilufya also shared that he had survived a similar incident in 2015 when some men wanted to kidnap him in a similar fashion.
Chilufya said while he was coming from school in 2015, three men grabbed him and bundled him on a taxi but he managed to escape.
He explained that before they drove off they started discussing where they could kill him from so that they could get his body parts for ritual purposes.
“I do not know why people have this perception about us. We are human beings like any other but people want to kill us so that they can make money,” he said.
And Chileshe Mwango, a physiotherapy student at Evelyn Hone College, said people living with albinism are like any other human being only that they are born with a genetic disorder that results from absence of the pigment melanin.
Mr Mwango, who is an albino, said that melanin is the pigment responsible for the color of the skin, hair, and eyes.
“People with albinism often have lighter coloured skin and hair than the other members of their family or ethnic group. Vision problems are very common among others,” he said.
He shared that due to some false beliefs, myths and many other social factors many albinos are stressed, have low self-esteem, and isolate themselves.
He said some people have many negative beliefs about albinos such as that homes of people with albinism are cursed because of a wrong done by the family, or that people with albinism don’t die but simply disappear.
“Some people think traditional concoctions made from body parts of persons with albinism can make one rich or having unprotected sex with a woman with albinism will cure HIV but those are just myths, albinism is like any other medical condition,” Mr Mwango said.
He added that trafficking of body parts from people with albinism must urgently be addressed through clear policies to help demystify the myths.

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