Persons with albinism in Ntcheu district have decried unavailability of sunscreen lotion in public hospitals, saying this is putting its membership at risk of developing skin cancer.
Persons with albinism are highly susceptible to sunburn, photo-ageing of the skin, solar keratoses and carcinomas; hence, sunscreen lotion plays a crucial role in protecting them from direct sunlight.
But Charles Chidambukira Ndau – a person with albinism from Kaiya Village in Traditional Authority Chakhumbira in Ntcheu – lamented that most health facilities do not have the lotion in stock.
Ndau was speaking to journalists who were on a tour of the Cultivating an Environment for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (CEPPAM) project in Ntcheu and Mangochi districts.
“Currently, there is no lotion in public health facilities. Unfortunately, most of us cannot afford to buy from the pharmacy thus we have just accepted our fate,” he complained.
Ntcheu Dermatology Officer Rahim Solea acknowledged the lack of the lotion in hard-to-reach health facilities, a situation he blamed on scarcity of fuel.
Solea said his office canceled mobile clinics – through which distribution of sunscreen is done – due to scarcity of fuel.
“We are working hard to improve the situation,” he said, adding that the district needs 1, 110 bottles of lotion annually to meet the requirements for its total population of 187 persons with albinism.
Each person with albinism is supposed to receive two bottles of lotion every four months, translating into six bottles per year.
MHRRC Programme Officer Enock Chinkhuntha pleaded with the authorities at Ntcheu District Council to address the plight of people with albinism in the district.
Chinkhuntha said time had come to give people with albinism a priority in government and local council planning, stressing that they have the right to social amenities just like any Malawian.
With funding from European Union (EU) through the Christian Blind Mission, MHRRC is implementing CEPPAM project whose main objective is to build the capacity and empowering persons with albinism with necessary knowledge and skills to understand their rights and to hold duty-bearers to account.
Ultimately, the project aims to eliminate all forms of violence against persons with albinism in the targeted districts, strengthening policy and legal frameworks to protect, promote and defend the rights of persons with albinism.
MHRRC is working with the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, District Councils and other human rights organizations to achieve its goal.