Albinism Awareness Day: Foundation Urges Better Deal for Albinos

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the 2023 International Albinism Awareness Day today, the Albino Empowerment Foundation (AEF) has pleaded with government to ensure implementation and enforcement of policies and legal frameworks that protect rights of people living with albinism.

It advised that deliberate efforts must be made to ensure protection, inclusion and equal treatment for them in various aspects of life, including access to education, employment opportunities, healthcare, participation in governance and social engagements.

The global event is observed every June 13 to raise awareness about albinism. The theme for this year is: “Inclusion is Strength,” with the primary objective to promote inclusion of persons with albinism across all areas of life.

Founder, AEF, Ifeoma Okafor-Ngesina, who spoke to The Guardian ahead of the celebration, appealed to government to put in place mechanisms to monitor and address human rights violations against persons with albinism and punish offenders.

She lamented that despite existing policy and legal framework such as the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2019 that prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunities in various aspects of life, including employment, people living with albinism in Nigeria still face challenges in securing jobs and aspiring for political offices.

Okafor-Ngesina said discrimination, stereotypes and limited awareness among employers about capabilities and needs of people living with albinism have hindered their access to employment opportunities and contributed to their marginalisation in the labour market.

She observed that, as at today, the fate of these special persons remains complex, as they still contend with superstitions, cultural beliefs, practices and misconceptions surrounding albinism, which are aiding social exclusion and marginalisation.

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Okafor-Ngesina said they often encounter economic hardships that have hindered their chances of securing formal employment, leading to financial instability and dependence on informal or low-paying jobs.

The founder pointed out that they equally face lack of appropriate healthcare, thus increasing their woes.

According to her, the special health needs include regular eye examinations, dermatological care and availability of sun-protective measures such as sunscreen, protective clothing and sunglasses.

She said people with albinism are highly sensitive to sunlight due to their little exposure to melanin, which is supposed to provide natural protection against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Okafor-Ngesina noted that a result of this melanin absence, they have an increased risk of developing skin cancer and other sun-related conditions.

She submitted that they also face difficulties in accessing quality education, adding that visual impairments may hinder their learning abilities, while inadequate support and resources in schools further compound the problem and discourage their participation in educational activities.

Okafor-Ngesina said protecting the rights of people living with albinism in Nigeria and ensuring their representation in government and other sectors require a comprehensive approach, involving various stakeholders.

She appealed for more avenues to be created for this group of people to promote their participation in decision-making bodies, such as appointment into key positions, special committees or advisory boards dedicated to addressing their concerns.