Worried by the poor vision faced by persons with albinism, Onome Akinolu Majaro (OAM) Foundation, a non-governmental Organisation with a mission to clear the misconception, stigma and discrimination associated with the condition via increased awareness creation, has donated eye glasses to Nigerians living with albinism to aid their vision.
According to scientific findings, albinism is an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair and/or eyes. And it is said to occur in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world with Nigeria having over two million of its population living with the condition, according to a UN official report.
Though albinos are said to have problems of poor vision and skin cancer, experts however said, this has nothing to do with their ability to read and learn, if given the right support and learning environment.
In Nigeria, government is yet to wake up to its responsibilities as regards the welfare of people living with albinism; hence, NGOs like OAM Foundation has come up with different strategies to assist this group of people realise their future goals through the provision of free health care, social services, employment and education.
Speaking during the donation at the Guinness Eye Centre, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Director of OAMF, Mrs. Rita Paul Okagbare, said the free eye glasses and frames were given to all albinos who visited the eye centre in line with the vision of the foundation which centres on empowerment of people living with albinism.
Okagbare who said she invested heavily on her daughter Onome, who is now happily married with a non-albino-child, reminded those discriminating against people living with the condition that albinism is not a disability nor a disease but just a genetic disorder.
“People should please stop the discrimination. All the myths concerning albinism are not true”, she noted.
To further improve the lives of persons with albinism in the country, Okagbare urged government and corporate organisations to support NGOs championing the cause of albinos with funds.
Commending the foundation for the gesture, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Head of Department of Ophthalmology, LUTH, Prof. Adeola Onakoya, said because people with albinism are peculiar, they require glasses and low visual aid to improve their vision.
Onakoya pointed out that albinos were faced with low vision due to lack of melanin pigment in the nerves of their eyes.
She explained: “Like some of them, their eyes are always dancing because they can’t just focus, but with the help of eye glasses and some visual aids, their vision can be improved upon for them to lead a better life.”
Also, Consultant Dermatologist and Head, Dermatology Unit, LUTH, Dr. Olusola Ayanlowo, advised parents of albino children to properly protect their skin against the sun and to also educate them on how best to protect their skin from the sun in order avoid skin cancer.
“The pigment called melanin protects the skin against the adverse ray of the sun. But people with albinism, do not have the pigment and therefore, when they are exposed to the sun, they have damages on their skin and eyes.
“So, it is important for people with albinism to avoid sun damage to their skin and eyes by taking precautions such as wearing sunscreen or sun-block, hats, sunglasses, use of umbrella and sun-protective clothing such as long sleeve”, she said.
Caption: Director of OAM Foundation,Mrs. Rita Paul Okagbare and some of the beneficiaries.