International Albinism Awareness Day

Albinism is a genetic condition resulting in little or no pigmentation in the skin, hair, and eyes. In several cultures around the world, and particularly in many African countries, people with albinism live in constant fear of murder. Others experience severe discrimination and bullying.

June 13 is International Albinism Awareness Day. It is a UN effort to stop the brutalities against people with albinism. PHOTO: UN Photo/Marie Frechon

While numbers vary, it is estimated that in North America and Europe 1 in every 17,000 to 20,000 people have some form of albinism. The condition is much more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, with estimates of 1 in 1,400 people being affected in Tanzania  and prevalence as high as 1 in 1,000 reported for select populations in Zimbabwe and for other specific ethnic groups in Southern Africa.

People with albinism face multiple forms of discrimination worldwide. Albinism is still profoundly misunderstood, socially and medically. The physical appearance of persons with albinism is often the object of erroneous beliefs and myths influenced by superstition, which foster their marginalization and social exclusion. This leads to various forms of stigma and discrimination.

In some communities, erroneous beliefs and myths, heavily influenced by superstition, put the security and lives of persons with albinism at constant risk. These beliefs and myths are centuries old and are present in cultural attitudes and practices around the world.

Hundreds of albinos have been brutally murdered and mutilated in African countries in the past decades. Local superstitions claim their body parts can bring luck and prosperity. Another widespread rumor is that albinos are evil spirits.

International Albinism Awareness Day was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 18, 2014. The resolution “encourages UN Member States to continue their efforts to protect and preserve the rights of persons with albinism to life, dignity and security, as well as their right not to be subject to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to continue their efforts to ensure equal access for persons with albinism to employment, education, justice and the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.”

"Made To Shine" is the theme for this year's International Albinism Awareness Day. The theme was chosen to celebrate the achievements and successes of persons with albinism worldwide. It is also a call to stand in solidarity with people with albinism through their challenges. In this unprecedented time, people with albinism continue to suffer all types of human rights violations. 

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