UN urges African nations to fight attacks on Albinos

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File: Malawian albino woman, stands outside her hut in the traditional authority area of Nkole, Machinga district, on April 17, 2015.

JOHANNESBURG - Highlighting the importance of cooperation among countries to overcome the violence and discrimination faced by persons with albinism, a United Nations rights expert has urged African nations to fully implement a regional action plan on ending attacks on persons with albinism.

“The plan sets out clearly what States can do – for example educating the public, collecting data and researching the root causes of the violence,” said the UN Independent Expert on human rights of persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, in her message for International Albinism Awareness Day on Tuesday.

The regional action plan to end attacks on persons with albinism in Africa – the first-ever such joint initiative – was recently endorsed by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.

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It includes 15 practical steps which are expected to go a long way in addressing the persisting and deadly challenge.

“International cooperation will be a turning point in the long battle to end discrimination for people with albinism, some of whom continue to be murdered for their body parts,” added Ero.

According to a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the action plan focuses on ensuring accountability as well as support for victims and uses legal and policy frameworks to deter practices of witchcraft and trafficking in body parts.

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Further, Ero underscored that persons with albinism also faced significant barriers restricting their equal participation in society, impacting their rights to enjoy physical and mental health and their ability to access adequate health care, education, social services, legal protection, and redress for abuses.

In particular, women and children faced violence, suffered from discrimination, stigma and social exclusion, were forced into becoming marginalised within their communities and faced social exclusion caused by misunderstanding, deeply entrenched prejudices and stereotyping.

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“We cannot rest until we have seen change in people’s lives and tackled the root causes of the current situation,” she said, calling everyone concerned to be bold and to persevere to ensure that all people with albinism enjoy their full human rights.

“We cannot underestimate the importance of joint action we advance together, with renewed hope inspired by the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ which is at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

In December 2014, the UN General Assembly designated June 13 as the International Albinism Awareness Day to draw attention to the stigma and violence that persons with albinism suffer.