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Sunday, September 27, 2009

New threat to albinos at school in Mwanza

Story courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper Tanzania

Pupils with albinism at Mitindo School, Misungwi District are exposed to hot sun as they wait in long queue for their turn to get water from a single source

Children with albinism admitted to a boarding school at Mitindo in Mwanza Region in efforts to keep them safe away from albino killers, now face a health threat.

According to the head teacher Juma Abdallah the pupils travel up to three kilometers to fetch water from a well far from the school. The school has a total of 148 pupils, 45 of whom are blind while 103 are albinos. Albinos lack pigments in their eyes, skin or hair, making their life difficult in Africa, where there is plenty of sunshine. They are more susceptible to skin cancer and sunburn.

“As you have seen, the pupils are forced to wait under the sun in a queue for a long time, risking their tender skins and weak eyes by exposing them to the sun,” he said.

Other challenges they face are shortage of blankets, bed- sheets, toothbrushes and tooth paste. The school also needs a professional matron and patron as well as regular heath check-ups. Mitindo School in Misungwi District was initially meant for blind children. Now, owing to lack of dormitories, two pupils are now forced to share a bed. “Following the outbreak of albino killings, the government directed us to accommodate the children, but their number is overwhelming and we’ve no alternative as our request for additional budget is yet to materialize,” said the head teacher.

The albinos have been killed for their body parts to be used in witchcraft by persons who seek wealth or sexual potency. At least 53 albinos have been killed since March, 2007 in various parts of the country, mostly in Shinyanga and Mwanza regions.

The killers sell body parts such including arms, legs, hair, skin and genitals to those who practice witchcraft.

Meanwhile, Mwanza Regional Commissioner Abbas Kandoro is currently cautioning parents and guardians to refrain from sending albino children there any more.

He said: "Parents too are duty bound to protect their children," adding that this is not solely a government responsibility. Kandoro called on each district authority in the region to construct a primary school where children with albinism would be mix with other children.

Government and lobby groups say Tanzania has about 170,000 albinos out its population of 40 million people.

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