Africa, Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam, September 2008
Copyright Dieter Telemans
Mama Yusufu Mwanahawa (25) lives with her baby-son, Yusufu Sereman (1), in a 6 m2 rented room. She hasn’t got a proper job but tries to survive by buying large bricks of soap which she separates in smaller portions and sells by walking from door to door. For her room she pays 10,000 Shillings per month (6 Euros) and that is about everything she earns. And now life and especially food is becoming more and more expensive. Life is hard for me, she says. Her problems started when she gave birth to Yusufu. The moment my husband saw Yusufu he got very angry and left me, saying that I had slept with a ‘musungu’, a white man. He couldn’t believe that he also carried the albinism gene. Before, I used to have a good life. We had a house in Tandale and my husband made enough money selling clothes. But one week after giving birth to Yusufu, my husband chased me from our home. Since then, I’ve never heard from him. Luckily, Mama Yusufu receives a little help from the Tanzania Albino Society. Without them I wouldn’t be able to make it till the end of the month.” She knows that she has to protect Yusufu against the sunlight but she is forced to take him with her when she is selling soap. Nobody is willing to take care of him and I don’t have the money to hire somebody. Nor do I have money to buy expensive sunscreen to protect his skin.
Discrimination against albinos is a serious problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but recently in Tanzania albinos have been killed and mutilated, victims of a growing criminal trade in albino body parts. Albinos have a genetic condition that impairs normal skin pigmentation and strikes about 1 in 3,000 people here. They are often shunned as outcasts and most die of skin cancer before they reach 30.