A helping hand from Global Medical Relief Fund for albino youth from Tanzania dismembered in the name of witchcraft

A helping hand from Global Medical Relief Fund for albino youth from Tanzania dismembered in the name of witchcraft

A charity is providing children born with albinism with prostheses to replace their missing limbs – chopped off by witch doctors for use in potions in rural areas of Tanzania

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Pendo Noni, 16, who had an arm chopped off in a witchcraft-driven attack, checking out her prosthetic hook.
Photo: Reuters

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Emmanuel says he’ll never forget that attackers “cut off my arm and cut my face and teeth” but that “God turned it around and put people in my life that have brought joy and put a new mark in my life."
Photo: Reuters

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The prosthetics created for the children are sponsored by the Global Medical Relief Fund and provided by a hospital in Philadelphia.
Photo: Reuters

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Baraka is one of many children in Tanzania missing a limb because of witchcraft rituals that use body parts from people with albinism in their “good luck” potions.
Photos: Reuters

Baraka Cosmas, 7, is missing half of his right arm. Mwigulu Matonange, 14, lost his left arm. Emmanuel Festo, 15, lost his right, plus the fingers of his left hand. Pendo Sengerema, 16, had an arm severed at the elbow.

These youngsters from Tanzania are not limbless by accident, or because of a birth defect. 

Their amputations were the work of human hunters with machetes who believed children with albinism – those born without pigment, so have white skin instead of the brown skin of their families – are ghosts who bring good luck if their body parts are sacrificed. 

Mwigulu Magesaa 14, had an arm chopped off.
Photo: Reuters

The tradition, which still persists in isolated, rural areas of Tanzania, is to hack off the children’s limbs and to turn the pieces into “good luck” potions for witchcraft rituals. 

Attackers who stole into Emmanuel’s village at night even tried to pull out his tongue and teeth.

The four youths are part of a group of victims who have been getting free prosthetic limbs in the US since 2015. This spring, they returned for about  two months to get replacement prostheses from a hospital in the state of Philadelphia  to accommodate their growing bodies.

Mwigulu received a replacement limb thanks to a non-profit group helping children from crisis zones get cost-free prostheses.
Photo: Reuters

During their trips to the US, they stay in New York City under the care of Elissa Montanti and sponsored by her Global Medical Relief Fund. The non-profit group helps children from crisis zones get cost-free prostheses.

In this latest phase of their journey, the children seemed more self-assured and friendly after living in Tanzanian safe houses funded by the Canadian charity Under the Same Sun.

Two years ago in New York, knowing no English, they kept to themselves and had to be convinced to speak to visitors through a translator.

Baraka Cosmas, 7, gets a lift up from a Customs Border and Patrol agent when he arrives at JFK Airport from Tanzania.
Photo: Reuters

Mwigulu said his replacement limb helped him gain confidence.

“I was feeling a bit bad that I have only one hand and others have both hands,” he said. He’s estranged from his parents, partly because authorities think his father may have been involved in the attack.

Pendo said fitting in with other Tanzanians has become less painful. When she wears her prosthesis, “it’s not easy for another person to discover that I have one arm. It looks like I have both arms until someone comes close”.

Baraka has, like many other children with albinism in Tanzania, been living in a safe house.
Photo: Reuters

As they prepared to leave the US to head back to Tanzania with their new limbs, the kids gathered 

around a table for a  meal cooked by an American friend.

Emmanuel used a metal hook attached to his arm to handle the cutlery and food. A big smile filled his face as he chatted with dinner companions.

(From left) Baraka, Mwigulu, Emmanuel, and Pendo went to the US for two months this spring to get fitted for new prostheses.
Photo: Reuters

Though he’ll never forget that attackers “cut off my arm and cut my face and teeth ... God turned it around and put people in my life that have brought joy and put a new mark in my life”.

During their 10 weeks in New York, Baraka began to learn to play tunes on the piano with one hand, taught by Ahmed Shareef, 20, who lost his right hand as a child during fighting in Iraq, and also got his prosthesis through the Global Medical Relief Fund.

The boy returned to Tanzania with a gift from Shareef: an electronic keyboard.

The sky’s the limit now for Baraka, who says he wants to be a doctor when he is older.
Photo: Reuters

Since Tanzania’s government outlawed witch doctors three years ago, hundreds have been arrested in killings of people with albinism.

Baraka, Emmanuel, Pendo and Mwigulu have learned to push away their own traumas and to live – even thrive.

At 16, Pendo hopes to become a teacher of Swahili, English and maths.

Mwigulu’s dream is to be Tanzania’s president. “I will stand for the rights of people with albinism,” he declared.

And Baraka wants to be a doctor.

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