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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Give people with albinism support

10th May 2012
Editorial Cartoon

A few years back, the only major thing people with albinism (PWAs) in the country had to worry about was the sun.

Not so now. In the past few years a major campaign had to be launched to protect them, after a series of killings linked to witchcraft.

Indeed people with albinism have over the years faced social and cultural challenges as the condition is often a source of ridicule, discrimination, or even fear and violence against them.

They had become the target of people immersed in witchcraft beliefs, who pursued them on the orders of witchdoctors peddling the belief that potions made from an albino's legs, hair, hands, and blood can make a person rich.

Indeed more myths have grown around them than have efforts to address their condition.

People with albinism are characterised by the complete or partial absence of pigment in their skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin. Albinism results from inheritance of recessive gene alleles and is known to affect all vertebrates, including humans.

The condition is associated with a number of vision defects, such as photophobia, nystagmus and astigmatism. Lack of skin pigmentation makes for more susceptibility to sunburn and skin cancers and these need to be treated.

and is highest overall in people of sub-Saharan Africa.

Indeed in the country the government working closely with other stakeholders has been able to offer the much needed protection to the group from the predators, who according to verified reports in the past few years claimed the lives of more than 40 of them.

Yet more needs to be done to ensure that people with albinism can move around confidently, without fear of being stalked by someone looking to benefit from their body parts.

It is more than mere government protection. The larger public out there still needs a lot of education to help it shed the distorted image of the group.

They must be made to appreciate that these people have a condition which could afflict any one and that it is upon all of us to do all we can to help them feel they are part of society, despite their condition.

The initiative by the Under The Same Sun (UTSS) and Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) to make sunscreen lotion, which is of crucial importance in the lives of persons with albinism in Tanzania is a major contribution to the people of this group.

The planned facility at the KCMC premises in Moshi municipality is part of an agreement under which UTSS will support comprehensive care facility.

It goes a long way in addressing the basic needs of the group and challenges those who have been professing sympathy for the group, to seize the opportunity to ask what they can also do to enhance the physical well being of the group.

We are fore example told that the least expensive imported sunscreen lotion sells at roundabout $30 (47,400/-) per bottle and lasts for no longer than one month. Very few can afford this critical item for skin protection from the rays of the sun.

That is why we consider the initiative unique and one that should serve as an eye opener to all stakeholders to do more within our power to help disadvantaged groups in our midst.

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