Albinism is a genetic disorder that causes people to lack pigment in their hair, skin, and eyes. While it is a rare condition worldwide, there is a high concentration of people with albinism (often abbreviated as PWA) in East Africa. In many countries, albinism has become associated with various superstitions that cause fear, discrimination, and persecution. Some believe that people with albinism are ghosts of European Colonists and will bring bad luck to people they encounter. Some superstitions say that PWA are haunted or cursed by God and must endure a life of albinism as punishment for some horrible evil they did in a previous life. Many people believe that the disorder is contagious, resulting in a lack of integration in certain African societies.
Perhaps one of the most tragic ideas is the belief that people with albinism’s bones and body parts can transmit magical powers that will bring prosperity to the user. This has caused people with albinism, even children, to be hunted, killed, and dismembered. Graves have been desecrated and the bones sold on the black market to be used in witchcraft rituals.
Sadly, most people with albinism die by the age of 40 from health conditions that can be easily prevented. Exposure to the sun can be highly damaging to the eyes and skin. Sunscreen, protective clothing, and sunglasses are essential for the health of people with albinism.
Victoria was born in 1993 in Tanzania where albinism is quite prevalent. She is the youngest of a family of four children, all born with albinism. Two of her older brothers have already died of skin cancer.
When COVID-19 hit Africa in the spring of 2020, many businesses closed their doors. Most devastating for people with albinism was the closure of the factory that produced sunscreen lotions in Tanzania. Since then, there has been a severe shortage of sunscreen throughout the country. When it can be found, prices are so high that those who need it the most cannot afford it. During the pandemic, most people with albinism have struggled to find enough income to purchase food for one daily meal, let alone find the funds for expensive lotions.
Without the sunscreen, Victoria and many of the people of her village have started to develop severe pre-cancerous skin conditions. Every morning for eight months, Victoria walked to the Tanzania Albinism Society to check if they had received any supplies of sunscreen. Every day she has been turned away emptyhanded. With each passing week, her skin became worse.
As if in answer to Victoria’s prayers for help, ADRA Canada was recently approached by Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) with a generous offer to provide palettes of sunscreen for people with Albinism after hearing about the work ADRA was doing with PWA in Tanzania. “Would ADRA like some sunscreen to help with their project? If ADRA covered the cost of the shipping, they would provide the sunscreen”.
Of course, ADRA accepted the proposal, and the plan was put into motion. Early this summer, a shipment of over 1,400 tubes of sunscreen was sent to ADRA Tanzania for distribution. The village where Victoria lives is one of the areas where ADRA Tanzania is working, and she got a good supply of this life-saving cream – a ‘balm in Gilead,’ as it were.
Victoria says, “I do not have enough words to thank ADRA for the wonderful gift they have given to me and my friends with albinism. Having access to ADRA’s mobile clinic and a sunscreen distribution at the same time has been a real answer to prayer. Thank you for touching our lives. After going so long without protection, ADRA has come to our rescue!
I cannot express enough the value of the gift that you have given to us. I pray that ADRA will continue to help PWAs so that we can be safe from sun rays. Thank you, ADRA, and may God bless you!”
Because of ADRA’s worldwide network of offices that are doing such amazing work on the ground, like ADRA Tanzania’s ministry to People with Albinism, we get noticed by organizations like HPIC. It is through strong partnerships like these; your donations can do so much. Together with contributions from our partner agencies, your gift to ADRA provides essential help to people like Victoria.
Thank you for your support of the ministry of ADRA.
Victoria displays her answer to prayer, tubes of sunscreen!
Three young people with albinism at the distribution, dressed in their protective clothing on a hot day in Africa.
Two children with albinism express their gratitude to ADRA with smiles of thanks. Now they might be able to venture out of their dark homes!