Sunscreeen lotion, which is of crucial importance in the lives of persons with albinism (PWAs) will soon be made in Tanzania.
The dream will come true after Under The Same Sun (UTSS) and Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre’s (KCMC) Regional Dermatology Training Centre (RDTC) sign an agreement under which UTSS will support the construction of an albino comprehensive care unit to be built at the KCMC premises in Moshi municipality.
UTSS Tanzania Executive Director Vicky Ntetema broke the good news at Ilulu Stadium in Lindi at the weekend when briefing National Assembly Speaker Anne Makinda on her organisation’s activities. The latter was inspecting the UTSS stall at the climax of celebrations to mark the seventh Tanzania Albino Day.
Ntetema said the construction of the plant would be a huge relief to PWAs, who are vulnerable to skin cancer owing to their lack of melanin - the natural colour that protects the skin against ultra violet sunrays.
The least expensive imported sunscreen lotion sells at roundabout $30 (47,400/-) per bottle and lasts for no longer than one month.
“There is under RDTC something known as Comprehensive Albino Care Programme, which has been professionally producing sunscreen lotion from a container laboratory for two years now on a pilot basis,” said Ntetema, adding: “The compound was produced using Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30+ and SPF 40+.”
“The plant to be built within RDTC will be operated jointly with UTSS and will be multifunctional in the sense that it will have two main operational areas, including a laboratory for the production of sunscreen lotion,” she told the Speaker.
The UTSS official also revealed that Mafalda Soto, a Spanish volunteer in-charge of the compounding unit in Moshi, had confirmed that the laboratory would offer training in the “photo-protection” and “compounding” of sunscreen lotions.
There would also be tailoring training unit where women with albinism would make protective hats and clothes for distribution to those eligible as part of outreach activities.
She added that more than USD 135,000 (about 213 million/-) would go into the construction of a much bigger albino comprehensive care unit to be shared by UTSS and RDTC.
“Under the collaboration agreement expected to be signed later this month, UTSS and RDTC will be much better to offer medical support to persons with albinism, create employment mainly to persons with the genetic condition and help them access compounding training,” elaborated Ntetema.
She said the aim was to empower PWAs with professional training “so that they themselves can run the sunscreen production plant in future”, adding that the ideas was to have free high quality sun-blocks given to PWAs across the country.
“When RDTC solicited UTSS support to help it improve, expand and diversify its activities and to cater for more persons with albinism, UTSS founder and CEO Peter Ash made a tour of the existing compounding unit,” explained Ntetema.
“We were elated and inspired seeing UTSS seek to join hands with the RDTC in order to strengthen and expand the services given to PWAs in Kilimanjaro Region and other parts of the country,” Soto once noted.
This year’s celebrations, which were held here at national level, included an exhibition showcasing a wide variety of handicrafts made by PWA.
The event’s organisers, the Health and Social Welfare ministry and the Tanzania Albino Society, said the exhibition was proof that PWAs also “have talents and can creatively contribute to the country’s social and economic development if given opportunity to do so.
The theme for this year’s celebrations was: “The principle of human rights is equality!”
Meanwhile, the UTSS team which was in Mtwara made a public screening of the ‘White and Black: Crimes of Colour’ documentary at the Tanzania Teachers’ College (Kawaida). More than 200 students and lecturers from Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (Mtwara), Tanzania Public Service College (Mtwara) and Tanzania Teachers’ College (Ufundi) watched the film and took part in a participatory seminar led by UTSS Operations Manager Gamaliel Mboya and IK Ero, Research and Advocacy Officer from the organisation’s headquarters in Canada – both of them PWAs.
Participants were surprised to learn that the two, both of them PWAs, were university graduates and that in fact Ero held two masters’ degrees. They were also exposed to the truth about genetic conditions, including the various types of albinism – and that ocular albinism was common in men only.
The total number of people who watched the documentary in Lindi was 740. It was screened at the Sokoine Lindi Regional Hospital for doctors, nurses, other medical students and at the Y2K Hall in the town centre for the larger public.
However, a downpour denied hundreds of other residents of the municipality from watching the documentary at Lindi’s Ilulu Stadium.