News / Health

Liberian Albinos Get Free Preventative Skin Cancer Treatment

Jennifer Lazuta
More than 300 albinos in Liberia have received free treatment for skin cancer prevention as part of a new government initiative.  The U.S.-based National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation says that albinos living in tropical regions, such as West Africa, are at increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Albinos in West Africa have long faced severe discrimination and rejection in their communities.  A lack of pigmentation in their skin not only makes them look different, but also puts them at an increased risk for skin cancer and blindness.

The president of the Liberia Albino Society (LAS), Patricia Logan, says the number of Liberian albinos who die from cancer has been on the rise.

"Skin cancer is killing all our people every year," she said. "Every year we are dying of skin cancer… Every day if you look outside, there’s some pictures that are placed on the wall there, if you look, you’ll see how many of our people have died.  As I’m speaking, there are more to come."

Logan said that traditional preventative measures against sunburn, such as wearing long clothes, hats and sunglasses, have not been enough.

"The problem that they face is fungus…. What we usually do is that we give fungus ointment," she said. "At the end of the day, that’s what we use to protect them from infecting more disease when it comes to fungus.  But you don’t find these creams in Africa.  You find it in the [United] States or in Germany."  

The special ointment is meant to treat certain types of skin fungi that some doctors believe may contribute to the development of skin cancer.

Logan said that one jar of the ointment costs around $20.  This is a price that many Liberian albinos can’t afford.

Logan said that because albinos are often marginalized from society, many were never allowed to go to school and remain uneducated.  Others cannot find work simply due to their appearance.

But now, for the first time, albinos in Liberia are receiving the ointment free of charge.  The new preventative treatment program is being funded by the government and administered by local health clinics in conjunction with the LAS.  It has so far benefited more than 300 people in two counties in Western Liberia.

Solo Toe, 12, was born with albinism.  He said he is grateful for the free treatment.

"Right now I am sick, suffering from skin cancer," he said. "I’ve done some treatment and I am trying but I need more treatment.  I hope that I will get well in the future.  We are many that are suffering from this disease.  Some of my friends have died."  

Hospital nurse Murray Nelson said that while the free treatment will help many albinos, challenges remain.

"There are many of them with this condition.  The conditions are terrible," Nelson said. "We don’t have enough jobs in this country to cure them.  But we are managing with their condition.  They need more skin ointment to clean their body.  This is terrible and this new option can help but we are managing the situation."

The LAS says they plan to expand treatment to reach another 2,500 of Liberia's estimated 7,000 albinos in the coming months.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs