12-year-old girl from Côte d'Ivoire with albinism, with her friend. UNICEF
Messages for 2020
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Today we commemorate International Albinism Awareness Day – a day chosen by the General Assembly five years ago, to celebrate people with albinism around the world. It is also a day to stand in solidarity with people with albinism, in their successes as well as their challenges.
In this unprecedented time, with the COVID-19 pandemic, people with albinism are more vulnerable to human rights violations. There are reports of persons with albinism being branded “corona” and “covid-19” in some countries, effectively labelling them scapegoats of the pandemic and further ostracising them in their communities.
In some countries, persons with albinism also suffer violent attacks and killings. This is due to harmful superstitions and false beliefs that their body parts can bring good luck. Women and children often bear the brunt of these atrocities. I urge Governments to be vigilant against these violations, and to ensure strong protection measures for people with albinism.
Failure to destigmatize albinism, address racial discrimination and accommodate visual impairment, combined with bullying and risks of attacks, often results in a large number of students with albinism dropping out of school. This in turn leads to unemployment and a life to poverty. I call on all relevant Governments to ensure that the human rights of people with albinism are included in the measures and decisions aimed at eliminating socio-economic disparities, particularly during this pandemic. I also urge the authorities to ensure that people with albinism have access to education and health services without discrimination.
Notwithstanding these situations, we have seen positive developments over the years. National task forces on albinism composed of multi-sectoral actors have been established in various countries in Africa, a region where attacks against people with albinism occur. The first-ever regional action plan on albinism was adopted by the African Union as a continent-wide policy in July 2019. We are also seeing a significant increase in activists and civil society organizations representing persons with albinism around the world. However, many of them are in dire need of resources and technical assistance. I call on Member States and the international community to build and strengthen partnerships with these groups as a concrete way to accelerate social inclusion and promote respect for human rights.
As the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda promises that no one be left behind, today we stand together with people with albinism all over the world in their fight to live a life that is free of stigma, discrimination, fear and violence.
I wish you all well on this International Albinism Awareness Day.
UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism
This year, International Albinism Awareness Day is being celebrated in unusual times. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the difficult situation faced by persons with albinism around the world. In particular, persons with albinism have been scapegoated and stigmatized in some countries due to their colouring and appearance. They are wrongly perceived as “foreigners” and as such, they have been singled out and taunted with names such as “coronavirus” and “COVID-19.”
Lockdown, though necessary, has increased the likelihood of insecurity and violence for those who are in situations vulnerable to these crimes, including persons with albinism. In addition, financial difficulties and socio-economic vulnerabilities have created a perfect storm for the flourishing of harmful practices related to ritual attacks. These include murder and the desecration of graves belonging to persons with albinism for the purpose of stealing and selling of their body parts. Other hardships for persons with albinism, many of whom are already amongst the poorest of the poor, include a severe lack of access to basic necessities such as food, sunscreen and other life-saving devices. Persons with albinism and their family members, also lack access to accurate information about their condition vis-à-vis COVID-19.
In all interventions in this time of the pandemic, including through socio-economic support, I am urging Governments, particularly in countries with records of attack, to ensure the inclusion of persons with albinism in the design and implementation of measures and processes that affect them.
The time of lockdown has also given us time to pause and reflect; to take stock of success stories in the movement to promote the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. In this regard, we will be featuring persons with albinism in an online celebration* that will include internationally renowned artists with albinism and various persons with albinism from around the world. This is in line with the theme for albinism day this year: #MadeToShine. The theme was chosen to highlight the qualities of persons with albinism around the world. It emphasizes that persons with albinism were made to stand out because they are outstanding in many ways as proven by the quality and quantity of their success stories in recent years.
I salute persons with albinism around the world who have personally triumphed through untold suffering due to their condition. I also salute the family and friends who have worked hard to build solidarity to mitigate the stigma and discrimination faced by persons with albinism worldwide. I especially commend the newly formed and growing regional groups representing persons with albinism in the South America region, Europe, the Africa region and those whose work are emerging in the sub-regions of Asia.
Finally, I stand in solidarity with countless others in saluting all frontline workers against COVID-19 which include persons with albinism. While the unprecedented times have set another challenge before us, we can be assured of our eventual triumph by drawing from the profound good deeply embedded in our common human spirit.