National Geographic, June 2017
This issue is about lies, but I am not so interested in psychology and such; I’d rather skip this topic and face a much heart-rending one, that is the plight of albino people in Africa.Even as it may sound strange, albinos are much more frequent
This issue is about lies, but I am not so interested in psychology and such; I’d rather skip this topic and face a much heart-rending one, that is the plight of albino people in Africa.
Even as it may sound strange, albinos are much more frequent in Africa than in Europe, peaking to one out of 1,000 persons in Tanzania.
Mistreated and scorned as family disgraces, they are nonetheless literally hacked to pieces for reselling as charms. And what incenses me is: this folly is on the rise, and takes place often with the consent of family itself! While Kenia is seeing albinos elected to Parliament, Tanzania is still far from this: the BBC correspondent who exposed the case has been menaced; she has to live in hiding.
Biologically, I wonder how such a recessive gene might be so diffuse, especially in Africa, where absence of melanin sentences most albinos to die of cancer before they turn 40; what is even less anti-evolutionary, they are extremely short-sighted since birth. Is there a useful flip side in this dismal gene, like in Italian sickle cell disease? (which protects from malaria).
Testament to the volubility of human mind, a tribe in Panama has an even much higher percentage of albinos (more than 1 out of 100), but there they are considered a divine blessing. Maybe having so many such people means having one in each family, making them more normal (more difficult to think of killing them).
The issue is compounded by a wonderful exploratory account of lava tubes underneath Hawaii (the largest as wide as a subway tunnel and spanning 40 miles), and bittersweet pieces on funerary services in the Philippines torn apart by one more “war on drugs” (on the caskets, hens are allowed to peck seeds, hoping that the soul of the killer will be similarly stabbed) and medicine-hawkers in Haiti, where tablets and pills are dealt with as if they were so many candies.