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Lockdown worsens albinos challenges in Luweero

Elizabeth Mirembe Kwagala the Chairperson of Persons Living With Albinism in Luweero. Courtesy photo

Luweero, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | More than 120 persons living with albinism in Luweero are struggling to live without sunscreens following a national lockdown that affected their movement and access to essential services.

Persons Living with Albinism depend on sunscreen with a special formula and Sun Protection Factor to prevent infection and sunburn. This is because their skin lacks melanin to absorb ultraviolet radiation from the sun which puts them at a high risk of cancer infections.

However, Elizabeth Mirembe Kwagala, the Chairperson of Persons Living with Albinism in Luweero district says that many of them have not been able to access the lotions due to the ban on public transport yet they cannot be easily accessed in local markets.

Manzi Kibuuka Ismail, a Person with Albinism at Kyepukulu village in Kikyusa sub-county says due to lack of sunscreen lotions, his skin has started peeling off putting him at risk of infection. Kibuuka says the lotion is not available anywhere in Luweero even if he had the money to buy it.

Hamidah Namuleme, another person with Albinism at Kibengo village in Kikyusa sub-county says that she has stopped going out of the house over fears of sunburns which has affected her work. Namuleme says that she ran out of the lotion in March and is struggling to live without any to enable her to walk through the sunshine.

Other albinos complained of job losses and discrimination making it difficult for them to buy the lotions. They have now appealed to well-wishers and the Ministry of Health to come to their rescue by providing the sunscreen to them.  Each bottle of sunscreens costs between 100,000 and 150,000 Shillings on the open market.

Herbert Ssekabira the District Councilor for Persons Living with Disabilities says that the district extended funds to PWA’s to set up saloon business to enable them to get money to buy the lotions and handle other needs. Ssekabira, however, says that the saloon is closed over the COVID-19 lockdown leaving the Albinos with no money to buy the sun lotions.

Ssekabira has asked the District and Ministry of Health to include the sunscreen lotion on the list of essential drugs available at Luweero Hospital for easy access.

Recently Dr Noleb Mugisha, an oncologist at the Cancer Institute said that many of the Persons with Albinism tend to develop cancer of the skin because they lack melanin, a natural pigment that gives skin its colour.

Last year, the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga said that Parliament directed the government to designate the Lotion as Medicine but not a cosmetic so that it’s put under the Ministry of Health in order to make it less costly.



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