UN seeks better care for people with Albinism

The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Nigeria on Tuesday said skin cancer remained a major threat for most people with albinism.

Mr Ronald Kayanja, the Director of UNIC in Nigeria, made the disclosure at an event marking the 2017 International Albinism Awareness Day, organised by the Onome Akinlolu Majaro Foundation, an NGO, in Lagos.

He also described albinism as a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition that affected people worldwide, regardless of ethnicity or gender adding that for a person to be affected by albinism, both parents must carry the gene.

Among the challenges people with albinism face, Kayanja said, “some reports indicate that most people with albinism die from skin cancer between the ages of 30 and 40 years.

“A recent sampling of 77 people with albinism from different African countries seems to support the reported trends. Of the 77 people sampled, 43 had pre-certified lessons and three required immediate surgical attention. This sample indicates the scale of the problem in Africa and the need for immediate attention,’’ he said.

He said discrimination against people with albinism is also high though “the expression and severity of the discrimination faced by persons with albinism vary from region to region.’

He said “women and children with albinism are particularly vulnerable as they are exposed to intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination…children are particularly targeted for ritual killings and women are sometimes victims of sexual violence.’’

On other associated challenges of people with albinism, he identified vision impairment and discrimination as being major.

According to him, absence of melanin in the eyes results in high sensitivity to bright light and significant vision impairment; the level of severity varies from one person to another.

According to the director, all albinos and members of their families need effective protection, speedy and effective investigations in any attack.

He called for increased education and public awareness raising activities on albinism.

Kayanja urged government at all levels to collaborate with relevant regional and international organisations aimed at protecting persons with albinism.

Also, Mrs Onome Okagbare-Majaro, the co-founder of the NGO, appealed to the governments to assist in tackling the spread of skin cancer among albinos.

Okagbare-Majaro said that this could be done through subsided sun screen for albinos.

If average albino can get sun screen at a cheaper rate, it will go a long way in reducing the incidence. Also, ophthalmological treatment at a subsidized rate will alleviate the plights of people with albinism. This is because most albinos have sight problems and it will help a lot of us who cannot afford such treatment,’’ she said.

Rafat S.