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SIERRA LEONE JOINS THE WORLD IN COMMEMORATING IAAD

Albinism is a genetic disorder. Lack of melanin which is the pigment responsible for the coloring of the skin leads to someone been born as a person with albinism. The Sierra Leone Albinism Foundation (SLAFo) has joined the world to commemorate this year’s International Albinism Awareness Day (IAAD) with the theme “Still Standing Strong’. The IAAD is celebrated on June 13th every year since 2015. This came about after the United Nation passed a resolution in December 2014 that every year June 13th should be observed as International Albinism Awareness Day. The UN General Assembly adopted this resolution because of the persistent killing of persons with albinism in East Africa. The national coordinator of SLAFo says Persons With Albinism (PWA) should be treated equally and free from discrimination. Osman Bobson said that citizens of this country should change their perception of PWA.

Bobson went further to say that the conditions of PWA in Sierra Leone is very sorry. He highlighted that two of their colleagues (Ruth Hawa K Kondoh and Mahid Hassan Jalloh) died recently after they were diagnosed with skin cancer. He called on the government to properly implement section 17(1) of the Persons With Disability Act of 2011 which states that every person with a disability, persons with albinism inclusive should have free medical in any government institutions. He said the government should have a special dermatologist assigned to PWA. He said PWA is not friendly to the sun which most times damaged their skin. He also called on the government to include sunscreen while importing essential drugs for its citizens. He also called on the government to adopt the regional action plan as a way of empowering PWA.

The Sierra Leone Albinism Foundation is a local NGO that looks after the welfare and wellbeing of PWA in Sierra Leone. Its vision is that everyone has a right to live free from fear or intimidation. SLAFo, therefore, envisages an inclusive society where persons with albinism are equally seen as any other normal person and are accepted, treated with dignity and respect in all spheres of life.

According to Bobson, he said that they were able to commemorate the day through media engagements because as he put it, “our aim is to change people’s perception about the myth they have about persons with albinism”. He highlighted the work they have been doing with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) noting that last year they did nationwide research with a local research firm, Center for Alternative Policy and Research Initiative (CARPI). He said the research unearths a lot of things with the culture of discrimination against PWA key in the outcome of the research. He further explained that they have just concluded their school visitations covering twelve schools in western urban and rural. The national co-ordinator says that the foundation is planning to strengthen its regional networks so that every PWA in the country will involve in the fight for equality.

The western area co-ordinator of SLAFo says PWA has long been neglected. Mohamed Janneh called on the government to put laws in place that will protect PWA from discrimination and say the government should have a special fund for PWA because of the uniqueness of their condition. Janneh called on persons with albinism to throw away the shyness in them and fight for their inclusion. He said PWA should not throw in the sponge but rather fight to become better citizens. He said PWA are people to be loved instead of been marginalized. He calls on every human to embrace inclusion and say no to discrimination. He said everyone should be treated equally with dignity and respect because there is only one race which is the human race.

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