13 June 2017

Burundi: No Health Care Assistance for Albinos, Six "Face Impending Death From Skin Cancer"

The representative of albinos in Burundi says six known albinos might die of skin cancer due to the lack of health care assistance.

The lack of health care assistance will soon lead to the death of at least six albinos, says Kassim Kazungu, the Chairman of Albinos Sans Frontières-Burundi (Albinos without Borders). He says the future of 12 others who have developed tumours is uncertain for the same reason.

"No one helps us," says Mr. Kazungu. "The issue of our health is a vexed one because it's expensive", he adds.

Albinos were estimated at 1,000 in 2011 in Burundi. Their life has always been at risk. Many people hold superstitious beliefs about them. Their situation became worse when they started being hunted for their body parts.

The parts were believed in the witchcraft world to have miraculous attributes that can attract success in life such as money, election victory and the like.

At least 22 albinos were gruesomely killed and dismembered between 2008 and 2016. The body parts of the victims were reportedly sold in the neighbouring Tanzania.

The last incident involved a five-year-old girl who was kidnapped in the northern province of Kirundo. She was later found dead with a missing hand.

The governments of Tanzania and Burundi took a series of measure to eradicate the plague. In Burundi, severe punishments including life sentence is imposed on the offenders.

The government has also gathered albinos in secure places. Some of them are still afraid to return home even now that their hunt has been abated.

Mr. Kazungu says, there has been an improvement in their security, education and other areas.

The major issue they face now is related to health

He says left to themselves, the albinos cannot afford adequate health care. They are always told "wait" when they ask for assistance from individuals or organisations.

"When it comes to health, no one seems to care for us," says Mr.Kazungu.

"No individual nor organisation has really sought to invest in our health care," says Moise Nkengurutse, the Legal Representative of OPAB, an association of albinos.

François, an albino met downtown Bujumbura, lives in conditions that put him at risk of health issues such as cancer and sight loss. He lives by hawking bags in the street of Bujumbura city.

He says he has no choice because that's the only way he can earn his living. "I wish someone could give me some funding to start a stable business."

The government says it has not ignored albinos. "It has done for them what it could", says Martin Nivyabindi, the Minister of Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender.

He says the government has worked for their security, education and social inclusion. The assistance has also included health care and food assistance.

"We are willing to help them," says Nivyabandi. "But we haven't yet got enough means to provide them with adequate assistance."

"The government will continue working with the representatives of the associations of albinos for their well-being", says Mr. Nivyabandi.

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