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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
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 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 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.

VOA Blogs