The Albino Network of Association (TANA) Friday called for the inclusion of people living with albinism and disabilities in government policies and programmes.
The group said although there are laws against the discrimination of people with albinism and disabilities, they “are constantly stigmatised, harassed, and discriminated daily with no remedy in sight.”
The Chairman of TANA, Jaiyeola Fatungase, made the call in Ojuelegba, Lagos, in commemoration of the International Albinism Awareness Day.
The International Albinism Awareness Day is marked annually on June 13. This year’s theme is ‘Strength Beyond All Odds’.
Albinism is a rare, non-contagious genetic condition that results from lack of pigmentation or melanin, causing reduction of colour of the skin, hair, and eyes, causing vulnerability to the sun and bright light.
Mr Fatungase said skin cancer is the “greatest health issue” confronting people living with albinism in Nigeria aside from vision impairment as a result of the lack of melanin composition.
He lamented that people living with albinism are being deprived of their right to good and affordable healthcare, education and employment.
“As one of the marginalised groups left farther behind, we must begin to be included in health interventions as envisaged by the maxim of ‘leaving no one behind’ propounded by the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.
“Like other children with disabilities, educating children with albinism is very expensive, no thanks to non-availability and expensive assistive devices such as magnifiers, sunscreen, and sun-shielding clothing. Besides, the absence of reading materials in large print, magnifiers for reading, allotment of more time during exams due to vision impairment are some of the non-inclusive policies on education that hinder the performance of pupils with albinism.”
He also said the educational system is not designed to attend to their needs. He pointed that children with albinism are ”verbally abused, taunted, bullied and often isolated from other children”.
Mr Fatungase stressed that unemployment is a major problem confronting PWAs in Nigeria hence the lack of educational qualification to compete for “decent indoor jobs.” And “menial jobs in outdoor settings such as farming and hawking, which in turn expose them to the sun, resulting in the skin cancer I talked about,” he added.
He noted that coupled with the pandemic, ”they are being faced with several challenges including heightened financial and food insecurity, fear of job loss and loss of livelihood, and inaccessible and non-inclusive COVID-19 protocols.”
A former Vice-Chairman of TANA, Oluwamayowa Adeyinka, said the myth that albinos are allergic to salt is due to ignorance.
“I eat salt, I eat pepper, the major thing is the sun and the vision. Getting away from the sun is the solution,” he said.
He urged people living with albinism to wear dark glasses, face caps, long sleeves and umbrella to protect themselves against the sun’s rays.