Monday, August 08, 2016

Protecting from people and the Sun

This blog has on a number of occasions highlighted the discrimination of the vulnerable albino population. This article appeared in AlJazeera. 

Five of the seven children Mwanje had with Florence were born with albinism, a rare genetic condition where the body is unable, or is limited in its ability to produce melanin, the substance responsible for the colouring in skin, hair and eyes.

"My first reaction when my first son with albinism was born was just shock. I didn't know what to think, but I immediately decided to love him. He was our son," says Mwanje.

But in many families this is not the case. Some keep their children inside all the time, afraid of what neighbours might say, or because they lack knowledge about how to care for a child with albinism. Often, the men choose to leave their wives as soon as the baby is born, arguing that it is not their child.

The myths about albinism in East Africa are many, and they vary between countries, but the general perception of the skin condition remains the same. It is said that a person with albinism holds great power in their body and that if you give a limb to a witchdoctor he will make you rich. It is also believed that they are in fact ghosts and not human. In countries such as Tanzania and Malawi, countless people with albinism have been attacked, and had their arms or legs chopped off with machetes. Many are reported missing. They live in constant fear of falling victim to someone's greed for money.

In Uganda the daily discrimination and lack of support from the government still makes life very hard. In school many children with albinism are bullied and fellow classmates refuse to sit next to them. An inability to see well, which afflicts many with albinism, becomes a major handicap in the classroom. When combined with the usual challenges of getting a good education while attending the local village school, which lacks essential facilities such as books, pens and other supplies, this proves disheartening for the children and their parents. Sun protection cream is like a bottle of gold, a luxury to protect them from the sun, their worst enemy, they can't afford to waste.

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