In 2009 Mariamu Staford, a Tanzanian woman in her mid-20s, was sleeping in her hut when a group of men broke in and chopped off her arms. In the shadow of the Rwandan genocide and perennial war in Congo, where violence against women has become so common as to be considered a war tactic, Staford’s story is sadly less shocking than it might be.
But Staford wasn’t attacked for tribalism, demoralization or sex. She has albinism, a medical condition in which the body produces little or no pigment that exists in every ethnic group throughout the world. In East Africa albinos’ limbs are highly valued — often fetching thousands of dollars on the black market — by witch doctors who use the bones in potions they sell to those who think they bring prosperity.
Since 2007 in Tanzania, 64 people with albinism have been murdered for their body parts. Fourteen others have been mutilated, including a 13-year-old girl whose right arm was severed as she lay sleeping next to her mother.
Mariamu Staford lost her arms — and, due to the trauma, her unborn baby — but she later traveled to America to receive prosthetics. To learn more about albinism and help victims of violence and abuse against those who have it, consult these resources.