Father abandons family over albino children

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By JAMES OWICH

A father of two children born with albinism has abandoned his home for more than seven years after he allegedly tried to sell them off to Kenya.
Albino body parts are prized in parts of Africa, with witchdoctors claiming they have special powers.
According to Ms Hellen Akech, 42, the mother of the children, her husband had been pressurising her to sell their two children to witchdoctors in Kenya as a way of getting out of the biting poverty they had been living in.

Ms Akech says, when she refused to heed her husband’s pressures, he became violent, before abandoning the home.
The resident of Laroo Division in Gulu Municipality, says her husband was so desperate for riches after being deceived that children with albinism were a source of wealth.
The children had also run away from school in Paicho Sub-county, Gulu District due to stigmatisation.

“At the time my husband abandoned the home, the eldest child was nine years and she is now 16, while her young brother, who was seven, is now 14 years,” Ms Akech narrates.
Ms Akech still lives in fear for her children since their own father wanted to sell them. She is worried that another person could harbour the same motive.
“My children are in school but I fear some dubious people might kidnap them for the same intension as my husband tried,” she says.

No more children
Ms Akech, a silverfish vendor at a local market in Laroo Division, never remarried after her husband abandoned her, fearing she might give birth to more albino children.

“We have paid the price of the ignorance of the people we live with in the community. We are looked at as second-class citizens,” one of the children tells Daily Monitor.
Albinism is a rare genetic condition in which people are born without pigmentation in their hair, skin and eyes. Many who have it are visually impaired and more vulnerable to sunlight, putting them at greater risk for developing skin cancer.

Mr Brian Mukalazi, the country director of Every Child Ministries Uganda, a non-governmental organisation that advocates for the rights of children living with albinism and children with special needs in the country, says children with albinism have remained vulnerable due to myth and lack of awareness about the condition.

“A section of Ugandans, especially those who strongly believe in acquiring wealth through witchcraft, think by offering body parts of albinos [to witchdoctors], they will get rich in the shortest time possible,” he says.
Mr Mukalazi cautions that unless the media, civil society organisations and the government sensitise the public, people with such condition will continue to live in fear.

About Albinism

What it is. Albinism is the “congenital absence of any pigmentation or coloration in a person, animal or plant, resulting in white hair and pink eyes in mammals. It occurs in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world. Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition
Attack on albinos. In East Africa, superstitions feed myths that albinos are ghosts, sorcerers or demons who have been cursed and, when hunted and killed for body parts, bring good luck to others. For years, superstitions have incited ritual attacks against albinos. Witch doctors use their body parts in potions to bring good fortune to those who are willing to pay for it, according to a 2013 report from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Monitor.co.ug

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