Health and Social Welfare minister Hussein Mwinyi has ordered government-run centres for children with albinism (CWA) across Tanzania to have fully fledged clinics.
The idea is to ensure access to reliable health care for the children as well as any others living near the centres whose age would normally be around two years, he said here late last week. Dr Mwinyi issued the directive during discussions with an Under The Same Sun (UTSS) delegation led by its Executive Director for Tanzania, Vicky Ntetema.
He assured the team that he would from now on make it part of his responsibility to coordinate matters concerning persons with albinism (PWA) “because coordination is of paramount importance in the planning of anything”.
He said it was sad and unacceptable that it was common even for centres accommodating as many as 200 people, mainly CWA but also children without albinism and their parents or guardians, to operate without clinics and health services generally.
“From now on, I will make sure such clinics are in place. I will order all regional medical officers to see to it that the facilities are established and become operational without major problems in terms of basic equipment, supplies and medical staff,” he noted, adding: “Albinism is a unique disability where, given the unique challenges it entails, intervention aimed at helping those concerned demands a special approach if it is to make a difference.
Government-run centres for CWA operating without clinics include Mitindo and Bukumbi in Mwanza Region, Buhangija in Shinyanga Region, Missionary of Charities and Furaha in Tabora region, Kabanga in Kigoma Region, Kitengule and Mugeza in Kagera Region and Pongwe in Tanga Region.
Ntetema advised the Health and Social Welfare ministry to routinely dispatch the relevant personnel to the centres for an eyewitness account of the situation there and also to offer counselling services to the children and staff at the homes as well as the parents, guardians and caregivers who spend most of their time staying with the children.
Dr Mwinyi promised that the Health ministry would also look into the whereabouts of 21 dermatologists graduated from the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre’s (KCMC) Regional Dermatological Training Centre, who have been posted to various regional medical hospitals “to make sure that they are effectively used to serve persons with albinism”.
He said the dermatologists have not been practising their specialisation but were instead assigned some other duties by their seniors mainly for lack of proper equipment and liquid Nitrogen, which is used to treat early-identified skin cancers among PWA.
He added that liquid Nitrogen is produced in huge supplies in Tanzania and the ministry would make sure enough of it is supplied to RDTC and other hospitals in need.
The minister explained that the talks with the UTSS were an eye-opened to him in that they helped him realise that there was “lack of coordination among stakeholders dealing with issues relating to PWA in the country, which now stands as communication barrier”.
He gave the example of the RDTC project under which sunscreen lotions mainly for use by PWA would be produced, saying soon after he was informed about it he promised to look into ways of increasing the capacity to produce the lotions for later sale to the Medical Stores Department.
“MSD will be issued with special guidelines on how to distribute the lotions to the respective destinations without following the traditional ways of delivering medicines to regional medical hospitals in the country, which is done after they have received requests from RMOs,” he noted, adding: “Under the traditional way, it takes a lot of time to deliver the consignments (of medical supplies) but the new system will ensure prompt deliveries.”