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In the wake of dozens of killings of Albinos in Tanzania, UNICEF urges action and respect for human life

DAR ES SALAAM, 23 December 2008 – Following the spate of gruesome murders of albinos in Tanzania, UNICEF has called for more concerted action to stop the ongoing atrocities and speed up prosecution of the perpetrators.

According to the Tanzania Albino Society (TAS) more than 35 albinos have been killed so far this year, with many other such cases unreported. The brutal killings are the result of witch doctors who claim that the blood and body parts of albinos can bring wealth to individuals. The violence has also spread into Burundi, where a number of Albinos, including children, have been murdered over the past few months.

UNICEF condemns these heinous acts as a systematic violation of individual human rights that must be dealt with decisively.

Cases of albino killings have been in the spotlight for almost two years now. This wave of cruelty is unprecedented in Tanzania’s history, with the most affected areas being the Lake Victoria regions of Mara, Mwanza, Shinyanga and Kagera, which border Burundi Uganda and Rwanda.  These regions are rich in minerals and commercial fishing activities and are therefore perfect grounds for witchdoctors to take advantage of fortune seekers who have been made to believe that the possession of albino body parts can boost their exploits in the mining and fishing industry. Incidents have been reported in other parts of Tanzania as well.

UNICEF acknowledges the Government’s efforts in dealing with the situation, but is calling upon all stakeholders especially the judicial system, media, religious leaders, politicians and communities to intensify efforts to stop these murders.

The President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, has condemned the killings and called for tough action against perpetrators. It is worth noting that so far 173 suspects, including five policemen have been arrested in connection with the killings.

The President has also directed the security system to identify albinos wherever they are and offer them adequate protection. UNICEF applauds this action, and advocates for broader public education to weed out superstitious beliefs which are deeply rooted in the society.

UNICEF, together with the entire UN system in Tanzania, will continue to urge and work with the government and other stakeholders to galvanize action to ensure that such barbaric and inhumane practices are stopped, perpetrators brought to justice, and ensure albinos like other citizens enjoy their fundamental rights to life, freedom and protection.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:

Georgina Vera Mtenga, UNICEF Tanzania, +255-22-219-6644, gmtenga@unicef.org
Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF New York, +1-212-326-7583, gkeele@unicef.org




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