Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Safe houses for children with albinism not safe anymore

Mohammed Said (35) was attacked on October 21,

Mohammed Said (35) was attacked on October 21, 2015 in Mkuranga District, Coast Region 

By Tasneem Hassanali ; @TheCitizenTZ; thassanali@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. Albino children confined in special centres in the country are still living in fear and insecurity, according to the African Union’s Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare and the Child (ACERWC).

Eight cases have been reported in Tanzania on the attacks against people with albinism (PWA) since 2015. The cases reveal that the killings and attacks, particularly against children, are mainly conducted in the Lake Zone region.

In efforts to curb physical attacks on children with albinism, the government established temporary holding centres (THCs) as “safe” houses for them. These children are placed at the centres by  the government or their families.

Currently, there are 32 THCs for such children in Tanzania,  the biggest being  Buhangija in Shinyanga which  hosts about 301 children.

But the ACERWC says in its report that despite good intentions of the government to establish the THCs to protect the children from further attacks and killings, the shelters are no longer serving the best interest of the children.

The committee is of the view that they feature more like detention centres than safe houses.

The challenge the Buhangija Centre faces is of overcrowding because it has become a convenient escape mechanism for parents wanting to discharge themselves of the responsibility of taking care of their children with albinism.

The delegation also indicated that there have been little improvements in some aspects, including provision of dormitories as opposed to tents,  and very limited improvement with regard to nutritional food.

Unicef worked with Under the Same Sun (UTTS) a couple of years ago and reported abusive conditions in Buhangija Centre- physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

Mr Peter Ash, UTTS founder and chief executive officer (CEO), said: “The African experts of ACERWC came into Tanzania and conducted a thorough examination into the situation the children with albinism are facing inside the government schools and centres.

They focused on particularly one school, Buhangija.

They concluded that the condition was not condusive, the school is  overcrowded, diseases are rampant, there sre very few educational activities happening and the children with albinism are not educationally advancing.” The ACERWC concluded that the government has largely failed to comply with its obligation under the African Children’s Charter, and other regional laws in fulfilling and protecting the rights of children with albinism. 

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