Photo Essay - Tanzanian Albinos
Published in full in the Sunday Times Magazine in a multi page spread.
Apartheid in Reverse? The Fate of Albinos in Tanzania
For Tanzania's 170,000 albinos, life is nasty, brutish and short.Dogged by prejudice and social exclusion, they are discriminated against at school and at work. Their lives are often led in isolation. Every facet of their existence is affected by their peculiarity - and superstition surrounds their yellow hair, white skin and pale eyes.
But is not just the way other Tanzanians react to albinos - people born with an inherited genetic inability to produce the skin pigment melanin- that curses their lives. The lack of melanin in their eyes means many are virtually blind and suffer from photophobia - a crippling inability of the eyes to cope with the strong light of the equatorial sun that beats down on Tanzania.
Many wrongly believe an albino woman will always have albino children. In the worst cases, people with albinism are regarded as having been cursed. People will sometimes fear touching an albino for fear of catching the condition.
They may be born into families that have a large number of albinos in it, or they may be the first albinos in the family. Many albinos live in isolated and small tightly knit communities. Because of the social problems facing the acceptance of an albino spouse into the family, many albinos cling to each other so that they will not face the harsh outside world.
I have covered two areas in Tanzania, one of the world's poorest countries which has a population of around 34 million people - most of whom live in poverty. Moshi is in the foothills of the Kilimanjaro range, a rural and hilly area in the north of the country. The isolated communities in the region have lead to a high concentration of the gene that leads to albinism in the regional population. Dar es Salaam is the economic capital of the country on the coast. Its heaving population of 1.2 million includes hundreds of thousands of migrants from the countryside.
Waiting for the clinic
Two mothers in a rural village at the base of kilimanjaro wait for their children to be helped in the once monthly albino session.
How to protect
Near Moshi, a mother is given advice on how to dress her daughter and is given a hat and a large bottle of sun screen to be put on all exposed skin. If bought, bottle of cream would cost more than a month's wages.
Odd one out
The teacher of this 100+ class considers her sole Albino student to be stupid and like an european because of his skin colour. Unable to read because of his dismal eyesight the little boy is also picked on by most of the other students.
Sister and brother
In Dar es Salaam, the children of one of the organizers of the Tanzanian Albino Society spend virtually all their time indoors.
A mother looks after both her own kids and the albino friend of her youngest daughter. (Dar es Salaam)
An Albino child learns braille at a school for the blind. Many of the albino students reach quite high academic grades once they can read and write in braille.
Eye test on a young girl already with solar keratosis on her face and arms.
Twins wait out of the sun in the failing business of a snack shack of an albino family in Dar es Salaam.
Unable to get a job, because she cannot work out in the sun, and cannot read well enough for an office job and her colour scares people from employing her.
Sitting with her daughter - this 34 year old mother will die shortly because of her skin cancers.
Two old friends- unusually in her forties the Albino lady has reached an age almost unheard of for an albino in Tanzania (Moshi)
A Carpenter only removes his hat in the privacy of his hut to reveal a cancerous lesion on the side of his head and a previous attempt of treatment which removed half his ear.