Dozens Dying of Skin Cancer

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK With a population of albinos numbering some 1 000 people in Namibia, the association representing albinos says about 40 of them die due to skin cancer each year. President of the Namibia Albino Association, Joseph Ndinomupya, yesterday revealed that skin cancer remains the leading cause of death among albinos. With a sense of worry, Ndinomupya said, “It is the main killer among our community. Our greatest fear is if nothing is done, the majority of our people will die.” He noted that most albinos do not live long due to a lack of understanding of how to care for their skins, such as applying sunscreen lotions. The Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) could however not confirm the statistics. The majority of albinos in Namibia are found in the Kavango, Caprivi, Kunene, Omusati, Otjozondjupa, and Oshikoto regions. Next week, Albino Week starts and this year the annual event will he held in the Kunene Region. “We want to create awareness about the prevention of skin cancer,” he said. Last year, the event could not be held due to financial constraints but this year the association was assisted by the G&P Group. Ndinomupya expressed concern about the public’s continuous discriminatory attitude towards albinos. Though the government policy clearly stipulates that people with disabilities can benefit from social grants from the age of 16 and if unemployed, the association has received complaints from its members regarding regional offices that refuse to register albinos to benefit from such grants. The Deputy Director in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Eberhardt Biwa, once explained that the responsible department pays the required amount to any person who under the Disability Act falls in the category of disabled people. Those in this category get a grant of N$370 each a month. Ndinomupya acknowledged that some albinos are facing problems with registration for the grant even in cases where they qualify for such benefits. He equally stressed there is need for the Ministry of Health and Social Services to educate responsible officials in the regions as to who should qualify for this particular grant. However, Biwa defined disability according to Act 10 of 1992 as “a person who owing to any physical or any mental disability and in the opinion of a medical official is incapable of obtaining any employment or practising any profession or trade or rendering any service, (and lacks) the means needed to enable him or her to adequately provide for his or her own maintenance”. Given that the majority of albinos lose their eyesight at some stage in life especially if they are exposed to non-conducive environments such as too much sunshine, Biwa categorized such a group as one that falls under impairment. Impairment, according to the Act, is any loss or abnormality of psychological or anatomical structure or function. These people who are visually impaired, as long as they fall under the age group 16 to 60, automatically qualify for such benefits, he said. Should an albino become blind and lose the opportunity to take part in the life of the community on an equal footing with others, then they fall under the handicapped group. Ndinomupya urged those who are benefiting from the social grants to use this money for its intended purpose, especially buying protective clothing. “They should not use the money for drinking. The more they drink, they will not realise they are burning,” Ndinomupya said. He appealed to companies to consider employing people living with albinism.