Five albino children from Tanzania are receiving care at Shriners Hospital in North Philadelphia after witch doctors cut off their arms and hands, according to a superstition that says the limbs of albinos are good luck charms that bring fortune and wealth.
“It’s unfathomable for us to believe this type of practice still goes on in 2015,” said Dr. Scott Kozin, as quoted by New York Daily News. “I’ve seen pictures of the kids that were coming over. The pictures didn’t prepare us for what really happened. It was unbelievably emotional. To see it in real life gave it new meaning.”
The children were brought to the United States for six months of treatment with the assistance of a nonprofit organization called the Global Medical Relief Fund. “If we could help this child, and they can go back with dignity and restored youth, then there’s no reason on this earth why we should not help,” said Elissa Montanti, a representative of the group.
After surgery and the attachment of prosthetic limbs, the three boys and two girls, ranging in age from 6 to 18 years old, will be returned to Tanzania, which frankly sounds like a risky proposition. Not every albino child survives the harvesting of their limbs for “good luck.”
Last February, Reuters reported on the murder of a one-year-old toddler stolen from his mother’s house and hacked limb from limb with machetes. His mother was hit with a machete by the armed gang of kidnappers when she tried to stop them. Another albino child, a four-year-old girl, went missing at around the same time. In both cases, the fathers of the children were arrested by the police as part of the investigation.
The child was one of over 70 albinos killed for their body parts over the past decade. The Reuters article includes testimony from human-rights activists that the value of albino limbs is so high – some $75,000 for a full set, an incredible sum in Tanzania – that family members are often involved in the abduction plots. Both the money and the cultural influence of Tanzanian witch doctors are said to have sapped the government of the political will necessary to stop the killings.