Deadly Hunt: Witchcraft Superstitions Could Lead to 'Total Extinction' for Malawi Albinos, UN Warns

May 04, 2016 11:41 AM EDT

United Nations' Independent Expert Ikponwosa Ero warns during her first official visit in her new role, that people with albinism could be completely extinct in Malawi because of the systemic killings, UN reported.

Over 10,000 albinos in Malawi are being hunted like animals because of the cultural belief that they are bad omen and they possess black magic.

"In some African countries, albinos' body parts are believed to bring wealth and good luck. As a result, attackers chop off their limbs and pluck out organs, and sell them to witchdoctors, CNN noted.

Emphasizing that the attack rates are alarming and the current predicament of Albinos should be called an emergency, Ero, who recently visited Malawi said, at least 65 cases of violence against albinos have been recorded by police since late 2014.

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"Persons with albinism, and parents of children with albinism, constantly live in fear of attack. Many do not sleep peacefully and have deliberately restricted their movement to the necessary minimum," UN press release said, quoting Eros.

To make things worse, the statistics showed that albinos are also attacked even by their relatives, making them dread for their lives more because even their own blood cannot be trusted.

Even after their death, attackers go as far as stealing from their graves because an Albino's limb can be sold to hunters for $2,000 and an entirecorpse amounts to $75,000.

Ero said while there's already a response plan to address the issue, the absence of resources in the plan has delayed the implementation. Moreover, penalties are not much grave, saying that stealing a cow may attract a higher penalty that albino killing.

The killings are atrocious and vile as most of the people in Malawi believe that the body parts will be more effective in black magic if the victim screams louder. Furthermore, they believe that children have more potent body parts for the potion.

"We talk about protecting wildlife while not even prioritizing efforts in protecting people with albinism," she told CBC in a phone interview.

According to, albinism is a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition which occurs worldwide regardless of ethnicity or gender. It most commonly results in the lack of melanin pigment in the hair, skin and eyes (oculocutaneous albinism), causing vulnerability to sun exposure.

World Health Organization estimates there are at least 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 15,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa affected with the disease. In the United States, about one in 20,000 people have some type of albinism.

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