About 90% of the over 5,000 persons with albinism in Ghana have skin cancer, either mild or severe. That is according to Engage Now Africa (ENA), an albinism advocacy organisation.
The situation is due to exposure to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun; which is becoming a threat to the life expectancy of persons with albinism in Ghana.
The Director of Education at ENA, Bishop Francis Yaw Ansah, says such a high prevalence of skin cancer among persons with albinism in the country should be of concern to the government.
He is disappointed that no effort so far, has been made to put skin care products on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to save the lives of persons with albinism.
“I am highly disappointed that up till now skin care products are not on the NHIS. This is a deprivation of the human rights of Persons with albinism”, he fumes.
The lack of melanin in persons with albinism makes them susceptible to skin cancer.
Currently, the skincare products that protect them from the effects of sunlight are not covered by the NHIS. And that has led to many of them contracting skin cancer, as they are unable to afford the protective creams due to their high cost; coupled with a high rate of unemployment among persons with albinism in the country.
The albinism community in Ghana has for many years, been calling on the government to include their protective creams and dermatological services in the NHIS, but that is yet to be done.
Bishop Ansah reiterates the need for government to consider that request now, adding that persons with albinism are also human beings like all other Ghanaians, whose well-being and comfort must be of interest to the state.
Bishop Francis Yaw Anah was speaking in an interview with DisabilityNewsGH on the sidelines of a skin cancer awareness programme organised in Accra on Friday, November 11, 2022, by Engage Now Africa for persons with albinism.
He urges families of persons with albinism to assist their relatives with the condition to avoid the dangerous effects of the sun.
He explains that “sometimes persons with albinism go under the sun without wearing protective clothing like long sleeves, wide-brim hat and sun cream. They are humans and so they forget. So, parents of persons with albinism should endeavour to remind them always whenever they are going out to put on all these protective clothing to help them curb skin cancer”.
Dermatologists from the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, educated over a hundred persons with albinism drawn from the Eastern, Central, Volta and Greater Accra regions, on how to protect themselves against the effects of the sunlight.
There was also a screening exercise for skin cancer and other skin disorders.
The Finance and Administrative Manager of the Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism (GAPA), Madam Mawuse Yakor-Dagbah, tells DisabilityNewsGH the significance of the event.
She points out that the lack of education among their members about the danger the sun poses to their skin and how to detect early signs of skin cancer is the reason why they have so many of their members contracting cancer.
Mrs. Yakor-Hamidu who herself is a survivor of skin cancer says, such educational programmes mean a lot to the albinism community.
She also adds her voice to the call for skin care products for persons with albinism and dermatological services to be captured under the NHIS to save the lives of their members.
The programme was organised in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank.
The Executive Director of Engage Now Africa, Madam Jennifer Hogg, who came from the US to attend the event, shares words of motivation with participants and reaffirms the organisation’s commitment to continue to support them.
Engage Now Africa periodically organises such skin cancer awareness and screening programmes for persons with albinism in Ghana while funding the treatment of skin cancer victims.
The organisation also undertakes community sensitisation programmes to change public perceptions and attitudes towards persons with albinism.
Engage Now Africa is an international NGO with the purpose to heal, rescue, and lifting vulnerable individuals, families, and communities to help them become self-reliant through strategic programmes, projects, and partnerships.
It empowers individuals and families in Sub-Saharan Africa to rise above extreme poverty through the Provision of programmes with sustainable self-help solutions, developing crucial, in-country leadership enabling long-term sustainability, asset-based community development and strategic use of resources for broader impact.
It was founded by an American couple, Bob and Lynette Gay in the early 2000s.
The organisation is in Ghana, Uganda, Sierra Leon, Ethiopia and Namibia.
In Ghana, ENA engages in albinism advocacy, anti-human trafficking campaign, and adult literacy and skills training programmes.