U-Thant Nicholas Smith, a young Liberian with albinism, addressing a gathering in West Anaheim California, USA, on International Albinism Awareness Day, said discrimination and stigma is carried out against Persons with Albinism (PWA) across Liberia in all forms.
The occasion was graced by Americans with albinism, their family members, and church friends of the event’s organizer. The International Albinism Awareness Day was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly for increased international attention to the condition and adversities of albinism.
The program was organized by Dr.Rebecca Kammer, an American low vision specialist who is working with albinism organizations across Africa providing vision care. She was instrumental in getting Smith to the U.S for advanced medical care on his vision, which is gradually improving.
“We are being discriminated against based on the perception and mindset that we albinos are not humans,” he said.
He also accused the Liberian society of totally turning against albinos, which has left them with no voice in the decision making process of the country.
“Many of us have been abandoned, neglected, rejected and abused and as a result we are living in total misery,” he asserted with tears running down his cheeks.
Smith, who is a rights advocate, also told the gathering that albinos have lost all hope due to the violations of their fundamental rights.
On the education front, the tough talking rights advocate lamented that PWAs have been ridiculed and intimidated in schools. Because of that most of albinos drop out of school, while some cannot even afford to pay their school fees.
“We undergo a lot of constraints and difficulties in pursuing education, due to the lack of access,” he added.
Touching on the health sector, Smith alleges that PWAs have been denied proper medical care. He accused health practitioners in both the government and private run hospitals and clinics of not paying much attention to their health.
“We albinos lack the necessary pigment to stand sunlight. Because of that we are faced with serious challenges. When we go to the hospital or clinic they downplay us and do not give us the needed treatment. Because of that we are living with lots of health problems,” he said.
Smith revealed that 99% of albinos in Liberia are not employed although some are qualified. “They will not afford them the opportunity because of their condition.”
However, he said due to the lack of interest by the government and private employers in providing jobs for qualified albinos, most of his friends have no choice but to do hard labor jobs such as: pushing wheelbarrows, loading cars, selling around town markets, farming, crushing rocks, etc., under the blazing sun, which poses serious damage to their skin.
He added that these kinds of jobs have contributed to many of them being affected with skin cancer and loss of vision, leading to loss of lives at early ages.
In his concluding statement, Smith in a strong voice, said PWAs like any other persons must be given the chance to live in dignity free from marginalization. He urged everyone to join hands in making the world a better place for all.
“We too have the right to good health care; we too have the right to quality education; we too have the right to employment, and better standards of living,” he argued.
Smith later appealed for support to make their work of championing the cause of PWAs more effective and efficient.
Meanwhile, Bibiana, a teen living with albinism from Tanzania, who says she was a victim of ritual attacks, narrated that she lost her parents at an early age, compelling her to live with relatives.
“One late evening hour while we were asleep, some unknown men broke into the house and chop up one of my legs and fingers and went away with them. I screamed in a pool of blood until I was rescued and rushed to the hospital. After I came to myself, it was then I remembered that my dad once told me about albinos’ bodies being used for ritual purposes in order to make others rich,” she said.
Sadly, he was not around to protect her from those evil men.
Bibiana is in the U.S with the help of some organizations, and they were able to give her an artificial leg.
Accompanied by her little sister Tindi, who is also an albino, they both called for the attacks and killings of PWAs in their motherland to stop immediately, noting that everyone should be given the chance to live a happy life without fear.
They called on the world to join hands around albinos in Africa in putting an end to their suffering.
Tremayne Mushayahama, a young Zimbabwean who came to the U.S in 2009, said he was grown when he left Zimbabwe. He admitted experiencing similar problems raised by his colleagues from Liberia, describing them as “people being wicked.”