Albino group demands law to provide free access to sunscreens

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By William Milasi

PEOPLE living with albinism in Zimbabwe have called for the enactment of legislation that would make it mandatory for government to provide free sunscreens

Zimbabwe Albino Association (ZIMAS) director, Mercy Maunganidze-Chimhanga told this week that due to the harsh economic environment in the country, its members were failing to secure sunscreens which are vital for their skin protection.

“We are currently not getting anything in terms of support from the central government. There is need for Parliament to lobby and put in place legislation which will make accessibility of sunscreens free just like ARVs,” she said.

ZIMAS represents an estimated population of 13 000 people living with albinism.

With little or no melanin, most people living with albinism in Zimbabwe are greatly affected by the country’s high temperatures.

Melanin is the pigment that colours eyes, hair and skin and protects the body from harmful effects of the sun.

Chimhanga said most members of the albino community who cannot afford to buy sunscreens risked developing skin cancer.

“Sunscreens for us are very expensive and beyond the reach of many,” she said.

“For instance, a 125ml tube is currently ranging between $20 and $30 and we need, depending on a person, 4 to 5 tubes. That is really expensive. That is why we are saying sunscreens must be distributed for free just like ARVs.”

Consequently, the life expectancy of the population has been greatly reduced.

“We are dying due to exposure to harsh weather conditions and unavailability of sunscreens. Skin cancer is the greatest scourge which afflicts people living with albinism. Consequently, our life span has been shortened as the expectancy is between 40-45 years,” she said.

Speaking in a separate interview, former Health and Child Care Minister, Henry Madzorera also called on governemt to attend to the plight of the marginalised group.  

“The population I think has been greatly marginalised for a very long time. The situation of people living with albinism calls for concerted efforts from various stakeholders.

“There is need to strengthen legislation so that we will improve the plight of people living with albinism,” Madzorera said.