By Kizito Makoye


NZEGA, Tanzania (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In her short life, five-year-old Kulwa Jawilu from northwestern Tanzania has already escaped death and certain dismemberment three times, her father, Mihambo, says.


In the latest attack in May, men armed with machetes raided the family home, looking for the girl and her eight-year-old sister, Tausi. Both are albinos - members of a highly vulnerable group whose body parts are often sought for use in witchcraft in the east African nation.


Mihambo Jawilu said he had planned to spend the night with his second wife, a few kilometers (miles) away, but something told him to go home.


"I had come from a brewery place earlier than I'd normally do," Jawilu recalled. "My heart kept telling me to go back."


His wife managed to send the attackers away when they first came hammering on the door. But at midnight, they returned, kicking in the door, overpowering Jawilu and his wife and ransacking their house as they looked for the children.

But Kulwa was away, sleeping at her grandfather's place, and the attackers did not find Tausi, who had hidden behind bags stuffed with grain.

Eventually the men gave up their search and left.

"I had asked the local authorities to protect my daughters without any success," Jawilu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"I am glad they are now safe in Tabora even though I miss them," he added, referring to the western region where a safe house has been found for the girls.

U.N. officials have urged the Tanzanian government to increase efforts to end the attacks and discrimination against people with albinism, a congenital disorder affecting about one in 20,000 people worldwide.

Albinism, which results in a lack of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes, is more common in sub-Saharan Africa and affects about one Tanzanian in 1,400.

United Nations officials estimate about 75 albinos have been killed in Tanzania since 2000, many hacked to death and their body parts removed to make charms and spells that witch doctors claim bring good luck.

For Isaka Begumisa, the grief brought by violence against people with albinism is relentless.

His son was born with albinism like him. But at barely three months old, the baby died of natural causes in January, Begumisa said.

Last month, Begumisa found out that his son's grave had been desecrated and his remains stolen.

"This incident has evoked very painfulmemories," he said. "If they have the guts to steal my son's body from the grave,where on earth is there a safe place?"

Last year, the Tanzania government banned witch doctors in a bid to stop a rising wave of attacks and murders of albinos.

Yet campaigners say more needs to be done to protect children like Kulwa and Tausi.

"We urge the government to step up efforts to arrest and prosecute suspected criminals and speed up pending court cases relating to hostility against people with albinism, so that justice can be seen to be done," said Vicky Ntetema, executive director of Under the Same Sun, a Canadian-based group that helps people with albinism.

(Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit to see more stories)