2017 / Editorial
Under the Same Sun
This photo series was created in collaboration with the Josephat Torner Foundation and â€˜Stichting Afrikaanse Albino'sâ€™ to raise awareness about the circumstances of people with albinism living in Africa, specifically Tanzania.
In Tanzania, when you have albinism, you are thought to be evil. There even is a price on the head of children with albinism since killing a person with albinism is considered to bring good luck. The fears and superstitions surrounding albinism run very deep in Tanzanian society. So deep that many women who give birth to a child with albinism are told to kill the baby at birth. If she refuses, she and the baby will become outcasts.
Many children with albinism are denied the most fundamental of human rights. They are despised and taught that they are evil, that their existence is a curse. They live in constant fear of brutal attacks.
Many of those who have been attacked are young children. In December of 2014, a 4 year-old girl with albinism named Pendo Emmanuelle, was taken from her motherâ€™s arms. Police have yet to find her body. In February 2015, Yohana Bahati, a boy of just 18 months, was taken from his home, his motherâ€™s face slashed with machetes as she tried to protect her son. She narrowly survived. Days later, little Yohanaâ€™s body was recovered from a forest, where he was found face down in the mud with his arms and legs hacked off.
Because of killings like this, many children with albinism now live in camps. Rejected by and cut-off from their families, they live separate from society in order to keep them safe. In some of the camps the living circumstances are horrible, with even basic care lacking. And this separation doesnâ€™t solve the problems. It doesnâ€™t help with integration. It doesnâ€™t give them a chance to grow into valued and respected members of society. They are secluded, kept apart, hidden, often mistreated and shamed. Thatâ€™s why the mission of the Josephat Torner Foundation is social acceptance and inclusion.
Besides the superstitions, PWA in Tanzania face another threat. Their skin and eyes are without any pigmentation, which means that they have no natural protection against the harsh African sun. This lack of melanin results in severe burns, every day over and over again, which in time turn to brown spots (usually in the face) and in the long run to skin cancer. Dedicated organizations are working hard to get sunscreen to Africa to help protect PWA - organizations like â€œUnder the Same Sunâ€ in Canada or â€œStichting Afrikaanse Albinoâ€™sâ€ and â€œStichting Inside the Sameâ€ in the Netherlands. They need all the support they can get.