Monday, June 09, 2008

Sub-Saharan horror show

From Botswana to Zimbabwe, outside a few spots in the Republic of South Africa and isolated specks here and there, Sub-Saharan Africa is a horror show of disease, deprivation, tyranny, corruption, and ethnic/civil conflict. From maternal mortality to per-capita GDP, pick the metric and soak in the misery.

The core of it all though is the complete lack of compassion for the plight of others you find in large segments of the culture. Not small bits - what we saw in Rwanda was just a hint of what boils in the soup down there. Wrap that into pre-civilization superstition, and you get nightmares like this.
Samuel Mluge steps outside his office and scans the sidewalk. His pale blue eyes dart back and forth, back and forth, trying to focus.

The sun used to be his main enemy, but now he has others.

Mluge is an albino, and in Tanzania now there is a price for his pinkish skin.

"I feel like I am being hunted," he said.

Discrimination against albinos is a serious problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but recently in Tanzania it has taken a wicked twist: At least 19 albinos, including children, have been killed and mutilated in the past year, victims of what Tanzanian officials say is a growing criminal trade in albino body parts.
Tanzanian officials say witch doctors are now marketing albino skin, bones and hair as ingredients in potions that are promised to make people rich.

As the threats have increased, the Tanzanian government has mobilized to protect its albino population, an already beleaguered group whose members are often shunned as outcasts and die of skin cancer before they reach 30.

Police officers are drawing up lists of albinos in every corner of the country to better look after them. Officers are escorting albino children to school.
"This is serious because it continues some of the perceptions of Africa we're trying to run away from," he said.

But the killings go on. They have even spread to neighboring Kenya, where an albino woman was hacked to death in late May, with her eyes, tongue and breasts gouged out. Advocates for albinos have also said that witch doctors are selling albino skin in Congo.

The young are often the targets. In early May, Vumilia Makoye, 17, was eating dinner with her family in their hut in western Tanzania when two men showed up with long knives.

Vumilia was like many other Africans with albinism. She had dropped out of school because of severe near-sightedness, a common problem for albinos, whose eyes develop abnormally and who often have to hold books or cellphones just inches away to see them. She could not find a job because no one would hire her. She sold peanuts in the market, making $2 a week while her delicate skin was seared by the sun.

When Vumilia's mother, Jeme, saw the men with knives, she tried to barricade the door of their hut. But the men overpowered her and burst in.

"They cut my daughter quickly," she said, making hacking motions with her hands.

The men sawed off Vumilia's legs above the knee and ran away with the stumps. Vumilia died.
(NB: the rate for Albinism in Tanzania is 1 in 3,000. In the USA, 1 in 20,000).

Those who hate Western Civilization in 2008 advertise one of two things; their ignorance or their embrace of evil. Full stop. Western Civilization is not perfect - but we left this stuff behind 1,000 years ago or more.

Those poor people. There are good people in Sub-Saharan Africa, but you have to appreciate the hill they have to climb. Horror show.

No comments: