…As foundation donates free eyeglasses to albinos
From: Bianca Iboma and Favour Gurah
Perturbed by the hard swipe people living with albinism face, the Onome Akinlolu Majaro Foundation (OAM) has called for attitudinal change of the people towards the albinos, saying that they are also part of the society and willing to contribute their quotas to the development of the country.
This was even as the Foundation has donated free eye classes to help the visually-impaired people especially the albinos in Lagos State.
Director of the Foundation, Mrs. Rita Okagbare said that many negative issues are usually linked to people living with albinism. These negative issues, she maintained, come in form of discrimination, stigmatisation, stereotypes, lack of adequate health care for skin cancer, visual impairment, lack of qualitative education and reasonable accommodation of the needs of people with albinism.
Okagbare said that there was need for government to empower albinos economically by providing entrepreneur and skill-set development centres for them.
She said that the persecution of people with albinism was based on the erroneous belief that certain parts of albino people can transmit magical powers. “Such superstition is present in some part of African great lakes region, it has been promulgated and exploited by witchdoctors and others who use who use such body parts as ingredients in rituals, concoctions and potions with the claim that their magic will bring prosperity, good money to the user and other rituals performed by Nigerians and African nations. People with albinism have been persecuted, killed and dismembered, sometimes their grave are dug up and desecrated.
“At the same time, people with albinism have been ostracised and even killed for exactly the opposite reason because it is presumed they are cursed and would bring bad luck, this persecution takes place mostly in Sub-saharan African communities especially among East African regions.
“We all know that albinos are among the most discriminated against in the society. The mere sight of an albino frightens as people believe most of the mythical stories associated with them.”Albinism is a genetically inherited condition which is very rare.
“When I gave birth to an albino it was traced to our fourth generation because my husband and I do not have relatives who are albinos but I accepted the situation and raised my child like every other normal child but gave her the best I could afford to managed her condition. She added that some of the myths associated to them include infidelity, people normally accused women of having sexual relationship with white men that visited Africa.
“Some others say they don’t die, but simply disappear, they believe it is spiritual.”More so, there are others who believed that they are products of abominations and atrocities committed by their parents.
Wistfully, the situation has continued to fuel stigma and discrimination against albinos.However, the condition has forced persons living with Albinism to recoil into their shell. When my daughter started the advocacy, she showed me an awareness poster against the prejudice of albinos in Africa and I became interested, we have been given her the support that it required. Although, only a very few understand or are educated about the medical and genetic causes of this condition, the OAM foundation would stop at nothing but to curb the misconception association with it.”
Consultant Ophthalmologist and Head of the Department Ophthalmology, Lagos Teaching Hospital, (LUTH), Prof. Adeolu Onakoya, in his comment, said people living with albinism are peculiar people. “God made them special, the arrangement of their organs that help them to see is slightly different. This is the reason they have poor vision.
Also, she said that the pigment colouring that makes other human’s dark is not enough in albinos. Moreso, some of them do not at all have this has contributed immensely on their poor vision.
She urged parents with such peculiar children to take for medical checkup and those who are virtually-impaired especially those whose severe situation for proper medical examinations.
Furthermore, Consultant Demartogist, Head, Department Dermatology, LUTH/College of Medicine, Dr. Olusola Ayanlowo said during her address that they had been able to carry out a research on albinos in which several findings have been discovered compared to the erroneous believe laced against albinos.
Ayanlowo said people living with albino “have skin problems due to the challenge associated with sun that affects their body and skin type. The pigment or chemical that is found on other people is absent or very low for albinos’. The harshness of the sun for people with albinism is high because their skin becomes painful when it is exposed to the sun. They have damaged skin and eyes.”
She stated that for people living with albinism, they should always cover themselves so they would not be exposed to the sun. If they must walk under the sun, she advised that they should use umbrellas, bola caps and ensure that their body is covered by wearing protective clothes that stretches to their fingers and feet. Albinos must be well covered at all times,” she noted.
She admonished parents to disregard the many myth told against albinos’. First they should see their children as being normal but have health issues that has to do with their skin and vision.
While Consultant Ophthalmologist College of Medicine/LUTH Prof Folashade Akinsola, on her part said that parents with albino children should seek medical help as early as possible. “Once they are guided by professional tips regularly most of the challenges would be managed and it can help the child live a normal life like other children although would not have the opportunity to engage in some recreational activities like exposing themselves to the sun but can be protected from the several diseases that affects them.”
Akinsola added the poor vision can be managed using visual aids. Apart from the medical advice that governs their activities, career path is another vital area they engaged on.It is not all profession an albino can practices.”An albino cannot become a pilot because such professions requires three dimensional view. You have seen some albinos’ and their eyes would be dancing because they cannot just focus. It is the help of glasses that makes them focused. The visual aid is meant to improved their sight and make them live a better life.
She stressed that as early as three months, parents could take an albino’s child to the hospital and glasses would be fixed not just any glass because people with albinism may have misrouting of the visual pathways that connects the eyes to the part of the brain responsible for vision.
“Infants with albinism also frequently exhibit abnormal and involuntary, rapid side by side up and down movement of the eyes that can be improved by medical advise”, she explained.
Mrs. Eunice Adebayo, a parent of one of the beneficiaries said that many believe that albino is a punishment from God or bad luck that the disease is contagious, which is not true, a major reason they are persecuted.
Adebayo said that it is because people are not aware of the medical information of albinos that is why the folktales and superstition had gained so much ground in the minds of many native Africans with or without albinism, this has a major effect on the social integration of albinos in African so society. She urged them not to allow their colours determined their personality. They should live their live without minding the activities of those who lack knowledge and information about albinism.