Amputee children from Tanzania get new hope in Philadelphia

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Five children, victims of horrific acts, are beginning the path to a better life at a Philadelphia hospital.

The children are all from Tanzania and albino. Because of a superstition about about that, they've had hands or arms chopped off.

On Wednesday, they arrived at Shriners Hospital, for limbs to replace what was taken.

The three boys and two girls got out of the SUV, still sleepy after a long ride from New York.

They've come to the U.S. through Global Medical Relief, a children's charity based there.

Founder Elissa Montanti saw a story about 6-year-old Baraka Cosmas Rusambo online, and decided she had to track him down.

"It was like, 'Oh my God, how do I reach this kid?" says Montanti.

When she located him through another charity, the group asked if she could help 4 more.

In East Africa, particularly Tanzania, the limbs of albino children and adults - and sometimes even bones dug up from graves - are sold to witch doctors, to use in good luck charms and magical potions.

It's an ancient superstition.

"They believe that by using these body parts, by using these bones, one can win the presidential polls, one can win any political polls," says Ester Ilewa, of Under the Same Sun, the Canadian charity working with the children in Tanzania.

"And if they are doing business, if someone is doing business, they believe that they can become rich," she adds.

There are general elections this year in Tanzania, with fierce competition for offices,and candidates looking for any edge they can get.

17-year-old Kabula spoke softly about the day she lost her right arm. She was just 12.

"One day, I was sleeping with my mother, and there were people came in our house and told my mother to give my..." her voice becomes even softer as she explains her mother resisted, but couldn't stop them.

Kabula spent two months in a hospital.

Underground trade in body parts from those with albinism continues, despite efforts by the United Nations and other human rights groups to stop it.

They fetch high prices in underground markets; one medical group working in Tanzania and Zimbabwe says a complete set of hands, feet, and genitals can reach $75,000.

Dr. Dan Zlotolow, an upper extremity specialist at Shriners Hospital, was visibly shaken by his first look at the children's injuries.

Dr. Zlotolow says some of the kids will get prosthetics, but Baraka might get a new hand, using his toes.

"That's an extensive procedure, but you're using the person's own tissue," he says.

Montanti says the time and effort the charities and Shriners Hospital will put in are worth it.

"If we could help this child, and they can go back with dignity and restored youth, then there's no reason on this earth why we should not help," says Montanti.

For more information on the children, contact Global Medical Relief Fund. or Under the Same Sun.
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