Fall 2010 ADRA Works
Around the world, ADRA fights for the rights of persecuted groups and minorities. The specifics change, but the problem remains the same. Certain children, women, and men are treated differently out of fear or ignorance. In Tanzania, ADRA is giving a group of albinos the power to change attitudes, and change their world for the better.
Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, discrimination against albinos is a serious problem. It is estimated that there are 150,000 albinos in Tanzania alone. A mixture of social stigma, physical vulnerability to the sun, and very poor eyesight makes the albino community the most impoverished group of people in Tanzania.
Zulfa Lameck is a normal 16-year-old. She goes to school, enjoys spending time with friends and classmates, and dreams of having a good job someday. Zulfa is also albino.
She lacks the normal amount of pigment in her skin, hair, and eyes. This simple fact doomed Zulfa to a poor education, scarce job opportunities, and segregation in her native Tanzania. Now, thanks to ADRA and the Mukidoma school, Zulfa is getting the opportunity to learn and achieve her dreams in a safe, supportive environment.
“They take good care of us, and they are considerate,” Zulfa says. “The school environment here is very welcoming.”
Albinos face discrimination throughout Africa and are particularly persecuted in Tanzania, where superstitions about albinos are common and sometimes dangerous. Albinos must deal with ridicule, isolation, and sometimes even physical threats. Body parts of albinos are valued on the black market for their use in witchcraft.
This past January, Zulfa left her home and former school to live and study at the Mukidoma school in Usa River, Tanzania. The school boasts a diverse student body, including about 60 albinos. Zulfa and the others have found a welcoming environment at Mukidoma.
Albinos such as Zulfa face some unique challenges. Because of their lack of pigment, they are particularly susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer. Zulfa wears heavy clothing when she goes out to protect her from the hot African sun.
ADRA is providing vision aids, sun protective clothing (long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and wide-brimmed hats), sunglasses, and sun protection creams.
Shabawi Mshana, another albino student, says the biggest problem is reading. The human eye depends on pigments to properly block light. Without enough pigment in the iris, albinos’ eyes are extremely sensitive to light. This makes reading a school chalkboard, or even a book, very difficult.
Even though Shabawi’s schoolmates have become more accepting, there is still a huge amount of work to be done in the community. This is why ADRA is also providing materials and training to raise awareness about albinism in the local area.
“The community in general has not reached the level of understanding that we are all the same, with only a difference in skin pigment,” Shabawi says. “We all have the same needs. We are all human.”