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"Ghosts" — Albinism in Tanzania

Tanzania's albinos face many challenges and form a soccer team to fight prejudice.

"Ghosts" — Albinism in Tanzania

Albinism is a genetic condition causing a lack of melanin in the skin, eyes and hair.

It is estimated to affect one in 3,000 people in Tanzania — seven times as many as in the West. Unlike those in the West who lead relatively normal lives, albinos in Tanzania face a life of prejudice and illness.

The birth of a child with albinism is seen as a curse on the family for some wrongdoing in the past. Their pale skin has led to associations with the ghostly and the demonic. For years, it was believed that people with albinism were not as capable as other human beings, not worth educating or able to work. Children with albinism are still often rejected by their fathers and women with albinism rarely marry.

Ill equipped for the harsh equatorial sun, skin cancer is a constant danger, but in recent years their lives have been further threatened by an alarming growth in a criminal trade in their body parts. Since 2008, 50 people with albinism have been murdered in Tanzania, some as young as six months old. Many more have been attacked with machetes and their limbs stolen. The body parts are used in witchdoctor medicine, where they are believed to bring wealth and success in business.

All photographs were taken by Jackie Dewe Mathews in Tanzania in November and December 2008.