Albinos face the fear of being harvested for their bones in Malawi

It was just after midnight when the splintering sound of their door giving way woke the brothers.

In the darkness of the mud-walled hut, they could make out three or four shadowy figures; a nightmare intruding on their dreams.

One flashed a machete, a fearsome blade used to harvest crops.

These men had come to harvest humans.

"They wanted to kill us and take our bones," says Alfred Misoya.

Three months on, he and his brother, John, still bear the deep scars of the attack. One blow almost severed Alfred’s arm.

"They want to take my arm after seeing they failed to hold the whole body.

"They took us as an animal, as if they are slaughtering an animal, not a human being. It’s a sin against us all."

There are an estimated 10,000 people with albinism in Malawi.

It’s a genetic condition, relatively rare but more prevalent in this part of Africa and it has long been associated with superstition and witch-craft.

Some believe the bones and body parts of an albino person have magical properties – that their ritual use can guarantee health, wealth; great good fortune.

But only since late 2014 have the authorities here in Malawi begun to record attacks on albino people, cases of abduction and murder.

The machete used in the attack Credit: On Assignment

Campaigners say the problem came across the border from Tanzania following a government crackdown there.

The Malawi police chief told us that stiffer sentences and increased police numbers had been effective.

But Boniface Massah, leader of Malawi’s albino community, does not agree.

‘’We need specific protection. We have African nations that send armies to protect elephants, but not to protect their own people,’’ he says.

With the help of neighbours the Misoya brothers beat of their would-be murderers. But they live now in constant fear.

‘’I spend more nights not sleeping because I’m afraid of being attacked again,’’ says Alfred.

‘’I cannot trust even a friend right now.’’

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