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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More