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Challenges facing albinos in Senegal

Emmanuelle Landais/fm
April 12, 2016

The Senegalese albino association is calling on the government to set up a sunscreen factory to improve their health. People with albinism are at risk of skin cancer due to inadequate protection from the sun rays.

Senegal Albinos' family in Guediawaye © Emmanuelle Landais
Image: Emmanuelle Landais

While albinos in Senegal are not facing the violent attacks seen in many parts of Africa, people with albinism there are facing grave and even life threatening discrimination. They lack adequate health care, difficulties accessing education and employment. Some of the albinos are homeless and many are living with skin cancer with no medical attention given to them.

Albinism is a hereditary condition which causes a complete or partial lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. When exposed to sunlight, the lack of melanin in the skin of an albino means they are not protected from the sun's ultra violet rays, they do not tan but burn, and there is a greater risk of skin cancer.

In Senegal, the national albino association has requested help from the government to set up a sunscreen factory. Besides increasing their chances of getting jobs, they hope to easily access some sun cream at affordable rates instead of importing foreign brands at high prices.

The association's president, Mohammadou Bamba Diop, said the government was not doing enough to protect the more than 10.000 albinos who are living in destitution. "Most of albinos are living with skin cancer and they are dying. To stop that, we need to put in place the sun cream factory," Diop said. He added that there should be an urgent strategy to create job opportunities for the people with albinism and adequate facilities for the homeless.

Other challenges facing albinos

Albinos in most African countries suffer from prejudice and are often rejected by their families. In other more extreme cases, many have been killed and their bodies dismembered for ritual purposes. In Africa, some believe albinos possess magical powers.

Senegal Albinos' family in Guediawaye © Emmanuelle Landais
Albinos in Senegal face many challenges including discrimination and inadequate health careImage: Emmanuelle Landais

In the Dakar suburb of Guediawaye, Amadou Diallo and his wife have five children. Four of them have albinism. Mohamadou Diallo, 13, is the eldest child and fortunately he is able to go to school. "My classmates are kind but sometimes they can be difficult too," he said. “I told them I'm albino but I'm also like them," he added. His father Diallo said that, his children were not facing the stigma seen in other African counties, but they lack adequate medical attention from the state, thus, making it hard for him to raise albino children. "The conditions for my children at school are hard. My son has eyesight problems and he is not doing well at school because of that," Diallo told DW.

For now, Senegal has approximately 10,500 people living with albinism. Despite the lack of medical care and insufficient basic needs for living, the country has no medical specialists to treat the skin cancer. The president for association of the people living with albinism says the dermatologists in the country have no skills on albino skins. The Senegalese government classifies albinos as disabled people and it has placed them under the ministry which takes care of women, family and children. However, the government has no budget allocated to albino families.

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