People living with albinism cry out over lockdown

Sunday May 24 2020

Ms Elizabeth Kwagala Mirembe, the chairperson

Ms Elizabeth Kwagala Mirembe, the chairperson of Greater Luweero Albino Association, on Thursday said a total of 125 members risk contracting skin cancer as they fend for their respective families during the lockdown. FILE PHOTO 

By Dan Wandera

Persons living with albinism have raised a red flag over a looming skin cancer exposure due to lack of access to sunscreens.

Due to the current Covid-19 lockdown, which affected public transport, many people living with albinism in the Greater Luweero districts of Nakaseke, Nakasongola and Luweero, say they can no longer access Kampala City where they could possibly buy sunscreens to protect their skins from the direct sun rays.

Ms Elizabeth Kwagala Mirembe, the chairperson of Greater Luweero Albino Association, on Thursday said a total of 125 members risk contracting skin cancer as they fend for their respective families during the lockdown.

“The lotions cannot be accessed within our locality. We used to travel to Kampala, a distance of more than 60kms to access the sunscreens but the lockdown has complicated the situation. Our children with albinism are the most affected,” Ms Kwagala said.

“The sunscreens are the better alternative, although we are advised to always put on clothes that cover the entire body for protection, [but]this is not very possible at all times. We need to move out of the house and look for the family basics,” she added.

Ms Olive Namutebi, the chairperson of the Albinism Umbrella Association of Uganda (Africa Albino Foundation), said: “I am receiving endless calls from members with hope that I can reach out to the different government departments, but my efforts are yet to yield fruit. I reached out to the Office of the Prime Minister and we are patiently waiting for a response. I am yet to contact the Office of the Speaker for possible intervention. We also appeal to well-wishers to come to the help of the persons with albinism in their areas.”

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Ms Namutebi said the country has in the past two years lost four children with albinism to skin cancer.

“We are a very disadvantaged group and appeal to the public to try and defend the rights of the people living with albinism to access the life basics,” she added.

Offering help
The Luweero Resident District Commissioner, Ms Phoebe Namulindwa, told Sunday Monitor that leaders of persons living with albinism have since contacted her office over their plight.

“I will link up with the group to see the type of help that my office can extend. We have already secured some food aid for them. I have been told that the sun screens are not easily accessible and are at specialised places in Kampala, but we shall see how to assist them,” Ms Namulindwa said on Friday.

About albinism

The disorder. Albinism is a congenital disorder characterised in humans by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes.

It is associated with a number of vision defects, such as photophobia (intolerance of light), nystagmus (a vision condition in which the eye makes repetitive uncontrolled movements), and amblyopic (a disorder in which the eye fails to achieve normal visual activity).

Lack of skin pigmentation makes for more susceptibility to sunburn and skin cancers. Available records indicate that Uganda has about 5,000 Albinos. Albinism is still profoundly misunderstood, socially and medically.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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