As the world celebrates the International Albinism Awareness day today, there is a need for sober reflection. There has been a systematic marginalization, suppression, victimization, and undue alienation of Albinos worldwide. They have been made to pay for what they aren’t responsible for. These are amazing humans whose beautiful lives have been disrupted by those with a warped mindset and negative age-long beliefs
What is Albinism?
This is a relatively rare, non-contagious condition that results in the body been unable to produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment that colors the skin, eyes, and hair. Both parents must carry the gene for an individual to have Albinism. The genetic condition is also referred to as hypo-pigmentation, and it’s known to affect all vertebrates including humans.
Albinos are found in virtually all parts of the world. The actual number of Albinos worldwide cannot be accurately estimated as there is an absence of an active database to capture their figures. A rough estimate shows that 1 in 20,000 people worldwide are Albinos. An interesting fact worth mentioning is that the little island nation of Fiji has the highest number of Albinos worldwide. 1 in 17,000 Fijians lives with the genetic defect.
Challenges facing Albinos
Most Albinos are regarded as been abnormal and evil, especially in certain parts of the world. They usually don’t have friends, as people often don’t like to mingle with them. There is that general belief, especially in Africa that Albinos are not good people. The stigma associated with this genetic disorder doesn’t allow Albinos to get involved in social activities. Those who are involved in trading often struggle, because people don’t want to patronize them. This has seriously affected their social and economic status.
Harsh climatic conditions
Albinos living in Africa, where the weather conditions are hot and humid, are prone to skin cancer. This is due to the effect of Ultraviolet rays from the sun on their skin layers. The absence of melanin in their skin, hair, and eye means they are susceptible to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation and are at greatest risk of getting infected with skin cancer. They are usually advised to wear suitable clothing and put on sunglasses to protect their eyes.
Danger of death
In some countries in Africa like South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, and Tanzania, Albinos are hunted like rhinos or elephants for their body parts. They live in constant fear for their lives. In 2018 for example, more than 400 cases of Albino’s murder in over 26 countries in Africa were reported. Unfortunately, culprits are never brought to face the crime they’ve committed.
In a special report released in 2014, Amnesty International confirmed that at least 20 Malawians with Albinism have been killed for their body parts. Children living with Albinism are more vulnerable as they struggle with their academic work due to eye defects. They also struggle to cope with constant bullying from other children.
Salif Keita, a World-renowned musician, shared his thoughts on some of the challenges facing Albinos: “Being born albino in Africa is a true tragedy. Why? Because people with Albinism are isolated, persecuted, and sometimes murdered because of occult beliefs regarding the origin of their white skin color”.
Salif Keita presently runs a foundation supporting people living with Albinism. The Salif Keita Global Foundation Inc (SKGF)
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