A grieving mother is haunted daily by the image of the decapitated head of her 9-year-old son. Police asked Edna Cedrick to identify it after the boy, who had albinism, was snatched from her arms in a violent struggle.
The death in February was one in a recent surge in killings and abductions of people with albinism in the southern African country of Malawi. They are targeted for their body parts, which are sold to be used in potions made by witch doctors who claim they bring wealth and good luck.
The persecution of albinos is rooted in the belief that the body parts can transmit magical powers. They are raped because they are considered able to cure Aids.
Albinism is a genetic disease characterised by the lack or a serious shortage of melanin on the skin, hair, eyes and hair and it comes with a high probability of cancer.
Malawian police say the growing violence comes after neighboring Tanzania imposed tough measures against such trade in January 2015.
Tanzania is thought to have the largest population of albinos in Africa, so photojournalist Ana Palacios visited the Kabanga refuge centre in Tanzania to find out more about the plight of albino people.
The Tanzanian Albinism Society has an estimated 8,000 registered men, women and children with albinism, but they estimate that Tanzania has a much larger population of albino people who choose to stay in hiding.
“The Tanzanian government has found it necessary to set up special centers to protect people with albinism,” says Palacios.
“These people have fled their villages for fear of being butchered by traffickers who sell their limbs and organs to witch doctors to prepare their prized good luck potions.”
“They are victims maimed by witch doctors to make potions, raped because they are considered able to cure Aids and alienated by the society because they are considered magical.”
Ana hopes her images will open people’s eyes to the extreme persecution albino people have to deal with.
“I hope that now some people know a little more about their situation they will decide to help this community somehow,” she said.