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Thu, Apr

‘Albinos still live in fear’

Malian musician, Salif Keita

Despite constitutional injunctions that allow freedom of movement, persons with albinism are still prevented from entering or living in some communities in Ghana.

Article 17(2) of the 1992 Constitution states that “a person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or economic status”.

However, there are so many erroneous myths and beliefs that put the lives of persons with albinism at constant risk, leaving them in endless fear.

According to Mr Adam Abdul-Wahab, the National Advocacy and Communication Officer of the Ghana Association of Person with Albinism (GAPA), an advocacy group made up of persons living with albinism, some communities around Atebubu and Abaase in the Brong Ahafo Region and Burukuwa, in the Kwahu North District and Akwamufie all in the Eastern Region, did not permit persons with albinism to live there.

Recounting his experience at Abaase, Mr Abdul-Wahab said he was nearly killed some years ago when he travelled to the area in search of work.

“They have a community god and the belief is that if they sacrifice an albino to the god, they will have a bumper harvest. This myth puts fear in our members, especially when they travel into the hinterlands,” he pointed out.

Explaining further, Abdul-Wahab said there was a time that one of their members was killed at Amanase-Boketey near Suhum in the Eastern Region allegedly for ritual purposes by a pastor.

 He said the suspected killer was arrested and is being prosecuted.

Myths

Traditionally, it is a taboo or a curse to give birth to an albino in some parts of Africa with some people attributing the condition to bewitchment in a family or a curse from the gods or from ancestors.

Others also hold the belief that people with albinism never die and having sex with a woman with albinism cures AIDS, while some say it is the mother’s fault if a child has albinism.

The most dangerous of all is the belief that a charm made from the body parts of an albino has magical powers that bring wealth, success and good luck.

As a result, several people living with the condition have been persecuted and killed in certain parts of Africa including parts of Tanzania, Rwanda, Mozambique and other neighbouring countries.

Describing these myths as superstitious and false, Mr Abdul-Wahab noted that such myths were rooted in outmoded socio-cultural practices and must be disregarded.

Causes of albinism

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, albinism is rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition occurring in both genders regardless of ethnicity in all countries around the world.

It adds that albinism in humans is characterised by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes which makes people with the condition more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancers.

Around the world, it states that between one in 17,000 and one in 20,000 people are albinos. Albinism results from inheritance of recessive gene alleles and is known to affect all vertebrates, including humans.

GAPA

He said so far, the association, which was formed in 2003, had registered 2,741 and its members enjoyed freebies such as sun creams to avoid developing black spots each time they were exposed to the sun, sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats.

He said the association would promote the rights of persons with albinism in Ghana by demystifying the myths and misconceptions around albinism, as well as create awareness of the challenges faced by its members.

Challenges

Mr Abdul-Wahab said treatment of skin cancer of people living with the condition was expensive and therefore, appealed to the government to make cancer treatment for albinos free of charge as pertained in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

He said the association lacked an office and a vehicle to run its day-to-day activities and called on the government and other big-hearted organisations to come to their aid.