These robbers dig up whole bodies or just hack off the limbs and features for their customers — often witch doctors who make charms for clients who believe the tonic or bones will bring good business and great wealth.
Analysts and human rights advocates say that protection is the key to more normal lives for African albinos.
Dorms and boarding schools offer safe havens so albino students don’t have to worry about being snatched on their way home after classes.
Families often hide their albino children inside their homes or walled-off gardens. Authorities say such concealment makes it nearly impossible to estimate how many albino children there are and where they live.
“It is impossible even to estimate the number of albinos who have been displaced,” the Red Cross report said. “What is certain is that thousands - probably the overwhelming majority of the total population of albinos … are not able to move around freely to work, study or tend vegetable plots.”
Indeed, most albinos “lead very difficult lives,” according to a World Health Organization briefing. In many countries, they are still considered less than human - more comparable to myths and ghosts than a sentient human being.”
The Red Cross report commends tiny Burundi for rounding up albinos into “secure urban locations” anchored with 24-hour military protection.
Although the body parts of albinos are sought as good omens, the albinos themselves are routinely blamed for poverty, sickness and drought — and punished accordingly. In some areas, families may be forced to sell or give away albino children before they can bring bad luck to the village.
After decades of ignoring its albinos, the Tanzanian government in 2008 sent a stern message to law enforcement and citizens, saying the torture and killing of an albino would be prosecuted in the same way as any other murder.
Despite several arrests, no one has been convicted. By July, court cases and investigations had been officially suspended for “lack of funds.”