By Michael Gwarisa
PEOPLE living with Albinism should be given free access to Sunscreens and lotions at all health facilities so to increase accessibility of the products and reduce skin cancers among people with albinism, Zimbabwe Albino Association director Mercy Maunganidze has said.
Briefing delegates at the launch of the 2017 People Living With Albinism Awareness Campaign, Maunganidze said the average cost of a Sunscreen tube and lotion costs between $8 and $20 and was beyond the reach of many adding that a person living with albinism requires four to five tubes per month which add to 125 ml.
“These are some of the economic challenges that we are facing as people living with albinism. If we look at the work that government has done towards albinism, we see that there is a lot of positive changes. We are receiving Assistance Medical Treatment Order (AMTO) to be treated for skin cancer while some are receiving social grants, sunscreen lotions and spectacles, e.t.c from the private sector and government.
“But right now, i am standing here representing the albinism community and we are appealing to the nation of Zimbabwe to the government and private sector, individuals and traditional leaders saying let there be a provision for Suncream lotions in all health centers so that people with albinism can get them for free just as is happening to ARVs,” said Maunganidze.
She added that Zimbabwe has 39 000 people living with albinism and they were all at risk of developing skin cancers and other skin infections if proper attention is not availed to them at policy level.
“According to the current survey which was done in 2015 on living conditions amongst people living with albinism in this country, the report states that there are more than 39 000 people with Albinism here in Zimbabwe. Most people with albinism are suffering psychologically, physically and economically. Lets start with the physical challenges which are being faced by people living with Albinism. There are two major physical challenges which are being faced by people living with albinism, the first one is low vision this can only be corrected with prescribed lenses or spectacles which improve the eyesight slightly.
“On sensitive skin, excess exposure to sunlight will cause skin cancer to people living with albinism. Psychologically your self esteem as a person living with albinism will be very low and this will lead to stress, depression, fear of the unknown. We are also facing social challenges ranging from name calling, stigma, myths and misconceptions like of you have sex with anyone with albinism you will be cured of HIV,” she said.
She added that the stigma has also had a negative impact on the employment opportunities for people living with albinism and host of other economic opportunities they are being denied due to the color of their skin.
Albinism is a genetic inherited condition from both parents with a reduced color on the skin, eyes and hair.
Meanwhile, giant Platinum producer Zimplats also to the opportunity to hand out assistance to not less than 500 people living with albinism in the form of Sunscreens, lotions, Spectacles and hats through support from partners in the private sector which include Nyaradzo Funeral Services and Optinova.
Speaking during the event, Zimplats Chief Executive officer Mr Alex Mhembere said they have embarked on this social corporate social responsibility gesture to do away with discrimination as well as improve living conditions for people living with Albinism.
“Today we want to play our part as a corporate citizen of Zimbabwe by embarking on a journey to eliminate the discrimination and stigma against people living with albinism. This is a very important journey for us because while albinism is a disability, it is by no means a limiting factor to what one is capable of doing and achieving.
“In most cases, discrimination is due to people not respecting an individual and in other cases it is due to ignorance or understanding of the condition. Through this campaign we are launching today, we recognize that a lot of awareness needs to be raised in relation to people living with albinism. we all have to look beyond the skin,” said Mr Mhemebere.