Tanzanian children lost limbs in brutal attacks for having albinism: Part 1

In Tanzania, the body parts of people with albinism are believed to harness magical powers so they become targets.
9:18 | 12/29/17

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Transcript for Tanzanian children lost limbs in brutal attacks for having albinism: Part 1
Okay, oh very nice! Which bed is yours? Top bunk or bottom bunk? Nice. This is yours. Baracka and amgudu are bunkmates, living in hiding in Tanzania. Does he snore at night? No? You like each other, huh? Yeah. Baracka, is it like having a big brother? Yeah? Reporter: They both have albinism, a disorder marked by absence of pigment in the skin and eyes. Does he take care of you? When some people bully him, amagu tells him off. He protects you? Because he has such big muscles? Reporter: They weren't born brothers but their shared experiences have made them just that. Oh, good to see you. Reporter: Their easy smiles and friendly manner mask the unspeakable cruelty they've both faced. Hunted simply because of how they look. In Tanzania, albinos are thought to be ghosts, haunted beings, routinely targeted in heinous attacks motivated by superstition and greed. We traveled to the nation's largest city, Dar es salaam, to witness firsthand the impact of the brutality. You like the green one, I can tell. Migudu was 10 years old in a rural village, when his life was forever changed. Do you remember what happened the night you were attacked? Yes. Attacks against persons with albinism are fueled by ignorance. Reporter: Vicki is executive director of under the same sun, a Canadian Ngo dedicated to the plight of these persecuted people. They think that persons with albinism is not human. If there's disaster, droughts, floods, hurricanes, they're blamed for that are. Reporter: Their body parts can be sold for thousands of doctors by local witch doctors. The witch doctors are like gods. They tell their clients that bones and other organs of peons with albinism, if mixed with a magic possession, will make them successful, will make them win elections, will make their businesses boon, will help in their love affairs. Reporter: Baracka was 4 when he was attacked by bounty hunters in the dead of night. The attackers broke into his house and went for baracka's arm and chopped off the hand. Lot mother screamed so hard, she was left alone to defend baracka. She says he had serious head injuries. After 2 1/2 years in police custody, four men were sentenced to decades in prison for the attack. As for anguru, it took over four years but the six men who attacked him were sentenced to 20 years in prison. These recent convictions would have been rare a few years ago, yet Vicki says so many more go unreported. Geographically, they share the border. Reporter: For 18 years Vicki had been a radio reporter at bbc Africa. In 2008 she risked her life in this award-winning report posing as a local business woman looking to buy albino body parts. After facing death threats, she went into hiding, forced to disguise herself like this. Eventually she left journalism altogether. The last straw was when the police told me that, if you continue to report, you will be killed, and we're not going to be there to protect you. Reporter: Tanzania has one of the highest ratesed of albinism in the world. As part of an emergency effort, the government brought the kids to this school for safekeeping. When we went to visit in 2009, it was already at capacity. How many boys sleep in this bed? Two boys. Really old. Old beds. All beds have twos? Yes. Reporter: Vicki's Ngo helps provide supplies. While they're safe from violence, there's another danger, the sun. An albino in Tanzania will likely die of skin cancer in their 30s. Do we know where the baby's from? She's scratching her head. Can I give the baby some chapstick? This is for lips. That looks painful. Reporter: 2009 is also when we first met mariamu. ??? That is so beautiful! Reporter: She was attacked while sleeping in a hut with her son near the Rwandan border. Left so helpless, her mother had to clothe and feed her, even take care of her 4-year-old boy allisha. Reporter: Today she lives in that same safe house as baracka and anguru. As a foster mother of sorts. She received her third set of prosthetics eight months ago in Canada, increasing her self-sufficiency by leaps and bounds. Imagine a woman with no arms running a weaving business in her safe house. Wow, they're really beautiful. Thank you. Surprise! ??? Happy birthday to you ??? Reporter: And today Vicki and the boys are celebrating her birthday. How old are you now? 34. 34, my goodness. Do you feel like a surrogate mother to them? I feel so happy living with these boys, yes, it's true, I feel like a surrogate mother. I'll always speak on their behalf because I am now their voice. Reporter: Today we're making the two-hour journey to see her biological son allisha at his boarding school outside the city. How often do you get to see him? Maybe three, four times, five times sometimes in a year. That's all? Oh my goodness. This is a precious visit. Last time when you saw me, I was really, really in bad shape. He was asking me, why aren't you happy? Why aren't you holding me? Can the person who chopped off your arms, can he bring back the arms so that you can use them to hold me? Reporter: That boy she was once unable to feed or hold is now 11 years old. He instinctively takes care of her and tells us he'd like to be a doctor someday. Why do you want to be a doctor? Reporter: Before they know it, the visit's over. It's time for another difficult good-bye. On our final day, mariamu, a devout Christian, takes her surrogate sons, baracka and amguru, to church. ??? Seems to me that you have been the victim of some of the worst of humanity, yet you have such a bright outlook on your fellow man. It's true that I have suffered a lot. And if I had not let it go, I wouldn't have been the person I am today. And that is why I carry on. Reporter: A message of hope she wants to instill in baracka and anguru, who like her have seen so much horror in their young lives. When we come back, a medical mission. The boys meet another guardian angel, 8,000 miles away in new York City. What's the one thing you'd like to see when you get to New York? Swimming. You want to see a swimming pool? I think we can try and arrange for that. Reporter: We're with them on a life-changing quest to make them whole again.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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