Persons with albinism in Uganda have complained of extreme discrimination by government officials and local leaders which manifest in different ways including being locked out of government programmes for livelihood enhancement.
Besides discrimination by officials manning government programmes, the persons living with albinism are also subjected to extreme stigmatization by locals who target them for the ultimate crime of murder by those seeking wealthy using superstitious means and being infected with HIV by those who think raping an albino female cures AIDS.
They say they are passed over in the distribution of wealth creation/poverty alleviation inputs and are pleading with government to formulate policies that would protect their rights in hostile communities.
According to albinism affected persons, enactment of such policies will protect them from people who are subjecting them to extreme forms of persecution and human rights violations, ranging from widespread societal discrimination, verbal abuse, exclusion from public services, killings, abductions, and rape.
The albinos were speaking at Merikit Health Center III in Tororo district during a medical camp for persons living with albinism organized by Every Child Ministries Uganda on Monday.
The medical camp which attracted several dozens of persons with albinism across Bukedi, Bugisu and Teso Sub regions was partly intended to commemorate the upcoming national day of albinism awareness on13th June 2021 under the theme “Strength Against All Odds”.
Shamimu Logose, a Resident of Nabiganda village in Kachonga sub county in Butaleja district says calling them names like ghosts, and “Namagoya’’ has deprived them from freely enjoying social life.
She said that students with albinism face discrimination and are prevented from equal access to education, either directly or indirectly, from both peers and teachers. “I feel hurt when I am walking then people start calling me namagoya as if I don’t have a name, and sometimes begin staring and laughing at me,’’ she said.
Derick Nanjekhe, from Wokuri village in Mbale district says people with albinism have been neglected from government programmes, adding “Whenever they are giving out animals, seedlings and other inputs we are always left out yet we are normal and capable’’.
He also said sometimes they are denied opportunity of getting spouses for marriage yet they also have feelings.
Emma Mutema, the coordinator of Hope Union of persons with albinism (HUPA) in North Bukedi says there is nothing wrong in having albino appearance, it is God’s plan for over which people have no control.
According to Mutema, it is unfortunate that Men have a belief that when they sleep with an albino woman, they get cured of HIV/Aids. In the process, these women acquire sexually transmitted diseases and also being impregnated.
He said government should deliberately put in place laws that protect people who suffer from generic conditions not to be isolated from their families or societies in which they live.
“It is important to note that a child with albinism is able to flourish like any other child, they can achieve the same education and employment as a person without this condition,’’ he said.
Brian Mukalazi, the country directorof Every Child Ministries Ugandanoted that the health camp idea was adopted in 2019 after realizing that many persons with albinism were marginalized and lacked access to basic medical care as most of them do not have the knowledge or money needed to access health services.
He noted that more than 95% of the PWAs die before the age of 40 mostly due to skin cancer.
Mukalazi observed that the challenges faced by the People with Albinism cannot be addressed within existing legal framework in Uganda, where PWAs are generally categorized as Persons with Disabilities under the Persons with Disabilities Act, 2006.
He called for involvement of all stake holders to come and promote the rights of PWAs, informing and educating the population as one way to demystify the myths and prejudices about albinism.
In Uganda as of July 2020, it is estimated that there are over 250,000 people with albinism according to Africa Albino Foundation.