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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid