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People with albinism in Ghana need urgent protection–says MP

Persons living with albinism are among the most marginalised and vulnerable citizens, yet very little attention is paid by government to protecting them from human rights violence of crime and threats of death, Hon John Majisi, Member of Parliament for Krachi /Nchumuru has said.

According to him, the threat or fear of violence, stigmatisation and discrimination against persons with albinism have many human rights concerns, the government has failed to adequately consider and take into account their healthcare needs.

“Persons with albinism live in a high state of insecurity that requires immediate attention. In other countries, it is the government that provide for their needs, the cream/ oil and the glasses they uses,” the MP said, citing the many legal issues relating to persons living with albinism.

Hon Majisi made the comments at a ceremony to launch a Community base advocacy project by the Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism ( GAPA) which is aimed to fight against outmoded culture like banishment of persons with Albinism on Wednesday March 27, in Accra.

In other jurisdictions, persons with albinism have access to sunglasses with a high UV protection screen to relieve light sensitivity, or to preventative services such as dermatological skin checks, body oil, eye checks and eye corrections.
But speaking as a Guest of Honour on the theme:,”Combating Customary Banishment of Persons with Albinism in Ghana,” John Majisi notes a “surge” in uncultured discrimination and banishing crime against Ghanaians living with albinism in some communities in the country.

He stated that, the discrimination against persons living with albinism impedes their right of access to healthcare services, stressing that, it was about time the government adopt a comprehensive approach to ensuring that healthcare services specifically cater for their unique needs.

He pointed that, even though violent crime targeting persons with the albinism has not reached the levels encountered in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania, where over 169 people with such conditions have reportedly been murdered for their bones and body parts in the past few years, there was the need for members of the association to stand for their rights to live at all time.

While charging members of GAPA to fight for their rights in all spheres, Mr Majisi also urged them to spread their membership base across the country so they could sensitise chiefs, opinion leaders and the general members of society.

He also chastised the government for abandoning its role on the lives of the vulnerable persona in society to Non Governmental Organizations(NGO), stating that, ” things that the government should be doing as part of our social welfare policies, the NGOs are rather the ones doing them.”

This, he stated, made him felt he is wasting valuable time in parliament instead of been on the street to fight for the rights of the disabled, especially members of GAPA.

Mr Majisi however challenged members of GAPA to value themselves and rise above stigmatization, citing a man with albinism in Namibia who defied all stigmatization and rose himself to become a Court Judge serving the country and humanity.

Mr Newton Katseku, Executive Director of GAPA, said the customary banishing and threats of death on persons with albinism in certain communities in Ghana causes uneasiness among the association of persons with albinism as they feel very insecure under these circumstances.

According to him, the state of insecurity among persons with albinism requires immediate attention before it spirals out of control, adding that, it was out of the need to reach to communities where such outmoded culture is still practices that, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) heartily funded the outreach project to campaign in communities against such practices.

He noted that, if the lives of persons with albinism are to receive substantive meaning, the government and the people of Ghana,especially chiefs, community leaders, National Commission of Civic Education ( NCCE) and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ ) must be rally upon to provide a safe and secure environment for persons with albinism in the country.

Mr Katseku further bemoaned how most persons with albinism are not in good habitation and are often maltreated and discriminated, citing communities like Abase,Akuamufie and Brukule, where the superstition and discrimination against persons with albinism prevail extremely.

The OSIWA project, he noted would provide members of GAPA the opportunity to move into such communities to advocate for the rights of its members, stressing that, “no one under the laws of Ghana is allow to banish another because of his or her condition.”

The Executive Director of GAPA who has been appointed on the Board of Africa Union responsible for Policy on Albinism, stated that the OSIWA project would further afford the association to work on a strategy for safety measures for people with albinism, the purpose being to stop the rising spread of violence against them.

He added that the general public needs to be involved in identifying and implementing community-oriented safety measures for people with albinism, as they would embark on albinism awareness and educational campaigns to bring an end to superstitious beliefs, discrimination and stigmatisation.

A four member team to implement the community based awareness campaign project was also inaugurated.

There is deep concern about abusive language and derogatory name-calling directed at persons with albinism in schools, work places, communities and church and intervention is needed in this regard.

It is a daunting task to filter out all illogical and dehumanising elements in cultural backgrounds and belief systems, but a substantial education campaign aimed at behaviour change is needed to address society’s lack of knowledge and to eradicate the common myths that being with albinism is a curse.

However, with funding support from OSIWA, GAPA has undertaken to engage in formal and informal educational awareness campaigns aimed at reaching a broad spectrum of the general public.

The successful transformation of minds rests on the acknowledgement that persons living with albinism are part of the human society.

Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Felix Nyaaba

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