The case of 18-year-old Moszy, who landed on a Spanish beach along with several other refugees from Africa, has raised awareness of the plight of albinos in many African countries, where witchdoctors claim albino body parts can bring wealth and good luck.
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition characterised by the absence of melanin in skin, eyes and hair and can affect all races. African albinos, easily spotted by their white skin and fair hair, have long been ostracised and discriminated against. The target of superstitions and sorcery, they are hunted down for their body parts, some of which are thought to confer magical powers.
Stefan arrived in Italy two years ago after fleeing his native Cameroon. A trained journalist, he was granted asylum on humanitarian grounds and now lives in Turin.
In south-west Cameroon, where I studied, there is an old belief that when the local volcano erupts, only albino blood can placate the god of the mountain. When I was fifteen, we found the body of my elder brother, also an albino, with his heart and testicles removed. I was forced into hiding several times.
It was very hard for me to cope with other people’s scorn. My parents insisted I get a proper education, but there is no special treatment for albinos with poor eyesight. Still, I managed to complete university degrees in journalism and English literature.
There is a lot to be done in countries such as Cameroon to ensure albinos have access to healthcare and education. But we must do our bit to educate other people and raise awareness of such major dangers as skin cancer. We must persuade other people and the government to make it possible for albinos to play their part in society.”
Chiara Gregoracci is the founder of the Association of Handicapped Albino Youths of Cameroon and Africa (AJAHCA). An orphaned child, she was picked up by albino foster parents.
Daniel (left) and George (right) were both abandoned by their parents before the AJAHCA helped them find foster families.
Mzawa Iddi Jagame is a member of the Tanzania Albino Society. Her account and the accompanying pictures were put together by Matteo Tortone and Alessandro Baltera of Olmo Produzioni.