Journey to Tanzania: Reporter Exposes Epidemic of Albino Killings

Life for Tanzanians with Albinism

On a visit to the Mitindo Primary school in rural Tanzania, I met children with albinism, who escaped the threat of violence, but are still very much in endangered by the sun. The children with albinism at Mitindo Primary school have leathery skin. It looks and feels calloused from all the scabbed-over sunburns.

The school, which serves as a refuge from the gruesome attacks, is a rare ray of hope in this country, but without books, paper or writing utensils, it needs more help. We passed out hats, clothes and toys, but hundreds of children -- some with albinism, some without -- live in grinding poverty. The albino children live, two to a single bunk -- each draped with mosquito netting -- with a backpack full of possessions hanging over it, which serve as make-shift dresser drawers.

Many of the children here are born into families where the father has abandoned them because of the taboo of albinism. It's considered a curse on the family. The mothers often struggle, mightily working to care for these children. Several children at the school tell me their mothers come to visit when they can.

I sat speechless when I saw one baby's mouth, black with scabs where his lips should be. He was just 3-years-old and was sitting on a teenage student's lap. His parents had brought him here to escape the threat of violence, but his care was basically left to the other students. It makes your soul ache to bear witness to their suffering.

Click here to find out how to help Tanzanians with albinism

Attacks on Albinos

The attacks on albinos in Tanzania are often carried out with machetes. The weapons, left over from wars, are used in daily life with nonchalance. In a traffic jam one day, a man pushed a herd of cows, hitting them with the flat of a machete.

Weapons are also used by bandits to hijack cars and buses on the highway. Along the Burundi, Rwanda border in northern Tanzania, where poverty pervades, we hear about bandits hijacking and carrying out untold violence. While I wasn't thrilled about travelling with men with submachine guns, I'm now very happy to have the protection of armed guards.

We met up with the local chief of police -- en route to patrol for bandits. He was also the lead investigator in the brutal beating of Mariamu Stanford, 28, a single mother with albinism from rural Tanzania, who we were on our way to interview.

Mariamu is just one of two Tanzanians with albinism known to have survived the gruesome attacks.

"The killers are too cruel...they cut you while you're alive," the police chief told us. "It is a slow pain death, but to Mariamu, she was luck[y]."

Though Mariamu lost both her arms, she maintained her spirit. You can see my interview with Mariamu on "20/20" tonight. It is a visit that will stay with me forever.

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