By Adewale Adeyanju and Sejoro Ekundayo, Lagos
The Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA) has reaffirmed that the State Government is working towards ensuring the dream for a better and more inclusive society for Persons with Albinism and every other type of disabilities becomes a reality.
Speaking at a one day event commemorating the International Albinism Awareness Day, the General Manager of LASODA, Mr. Dare Dairo, said “Creating awareness on the plights of Persons with Albinism is an ongoing exercise”.
He thanked the Lagos State Albinism Awareness Society (LAAS) for uniting to ensure that people with Albinism have a sense of belonging where solutions are proffered to their challenges.
“Ours is an inclusive government where everyone matters in the grand scheme of things”, Mr Dairo emphasized.
He referred to Persons with Albinism (PWA) as a beautiful people who must be loved and cared for as they are part of the human family.
The United Nations (UN) has declared June 13 as International Day for Albinism. Globally, the event is celebrated to bring into public consciousness the plights of PWA. This year’s theme is: “United in making our voice heard”.
Delivering her welcome address on the occasion, the Chairperson, Lagos State Albinism Awareness Society – Mrs. Omolola Josephine, speaking on behalf of members, expressed gratitude and appreciation to the Lagos State Government (LASG), the Governor – Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, and other eminent personalities; the General Manager and staff of LASODA; the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth & Social Development, Parastatals, as well as partners and facilitators for their contributions toward making life meaningful and worthwhile for Persons with Albinism.
While commenting on the importance of skin health, she called for greater caution against ravages of skin cancer among PWA. A minute silence was observed in honor of a colleague who recently died of skin cancer at Omolola’s request.
She charges PWA in Lagos State to adhere to instructions given by health and medical practitioners. These include regular wearing of sunglasses, avoiding direct contact with the sun, eating less salty foods and periodic health check for early diagnosis of cancer. She maintained that, it is important for every PWA to make their life count.
Professor of Dermatology at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Professor (Mrs) Olayinka Olasode defined Albinism as “An inherited condition characterized by lower rate or absence of melanin production. Melanin is responsible for the colour of skin and hair”
Speaking further, Professor Olasode, who is the Founder and Coordinator of Albinism Care and Research Initiative (OAUTHC) identified two categories among the several types of Albinism. These are Ocular Albinism (OA), a rare Albinism condition affecting only the eyes; and Oculocutaneous Albinism (OCA) which affects the eyes, the skin and the hair. She maintained that Albinism as a lifelong genetic condition has no cure. Therefore, treatment focuses on minimizing the symptoms and watching skin changes.
“In caring for the eyes, persons with Albinism must use prescribed sunglasses. Dark glasses protect the eyes from the sun while regular eye examination must be undertaken. Surgery on optical muscles can sometimes minimize the “shaking of the eyes”.
“Persons with Albinism must stay in the shade as much as possible, cover up with clothing with SPF protection and must always wear a hat”. Meanwhile regular checking of the skin for changes or suspicious marks is advised.
Dr. Adeife Cole, from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja-Lagos, debunked myths and superstitious beliefs surrounding Albinism. She maintained that, despite the condition, Persons with Albinism can live positive lives.
Highlights at the event were the awareness walk to mark the day, entertainment from artistes with Albinism and other artistes with disabilities. The performances of the artistes, especially rendition of songs and poems did much to enliven the occasion. Testimonies were given by some Persons with Albinism who benefited from opportunities and grants in appreciation of LASODA’s partnership and the Lagos State Government’s support towards making life worth living.
The climax of the event was the nomination of LASODA General Manager, Mr. Dare Dairo, as “Abiyomi Tooto Angelic Father” by the Love Without Condition Evangelical Ministry. The award is given in recognition of individual contributions toward populating the kingdom of God, building and supporting an inclusive community and also for services rendered to humanity.