People with albinism continue to be hunted for witchcraft rituals, spawning a lucrative market in their body parts, according to a new UN report.

In her first report to the UN Human Rights Council, Ikponwosa Ero, an independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, said there has been reports of 40 attacks in seven different countries during the past eight months alone. But she added that the figures represented just a faction of the total given the secrecy surrounding such rituals and even, in some cases, the complicity of the victim's family.

Albinism, a condition caused by a lack of melanin in the skin, hair and eyes, is a non-contagious, genetically inherited tradition that can affect as many as one in 70 people in specific groups in the Pacific region but more broadly has rates ranging from one in 5,000 people to one in 20,000 people.

"Dangerous myths feed these attacks on innocent people: many erroneously believe people with albinism are not human beings, but are ghosts or subhuman and cannot die but only disappear," said Ms Ero. "Tragically many believe the condition a curse."

The report shows that a lucrative market has emerged with the body parts of people with albinism being traded for use in witchcraft rituals, potions or amulets in the belief that the use of such body parts will induce wealth, good luck and political success. Prices reportedly range from $US2,000 a limb to $US75,000 for a complete 'set' or corpse.

While some body parts are taken from desecrated graves, there are reports of victims being dismembered while still alive with a belief that the body parts, which include fingers, arms, legs, eyes, genitals, skins, bones, heads and hair, being used will be more effective if the victim screams more.

Children make up a large proportion of the victims, says the report, thanks in part to a belief that the more "innocent" a victim is, the more potent their body parts will be, while women with albinism are reported as being the victims of sexual assault because of a myth that sex with them can cure HIV/AIDS.

The report says that since 2007, civil society organisations have reported hundreds of attacks against people with albinism in 25 different countries, all of which appear to be related to beliefs linked to witchcraft practices.

~ www.ohchr.org