Adventist Review Online | ADRA Supports Albinos’ Struggle Against Skin Cancer in Tanzania

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The disease is the number-one killer of people with albinism

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Private Grants Innovation Program is piloting a cryosurgery cancer treatment for persons with albinism in Tanzania. 

Albinism, which affects as many as 1 in 1,400 people in Tanzania, is an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair, and eyes. It leads to poor vision and a predisposition for skin cancer. This cancer, called the silent killer for persons with albinism, reduces their average life expectancy to only 40 years. 

Persons with Albinism (PWAs) in Africa also suffer from discrimination, superstition, poverty, human rights abuse, and protection issues, making them one of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities on the continent. Since 2006, at least 73 PWAs have been murdered because of superstition, while 136 other cases of violations have been reported. PWAs have been “hunted” by people who believe that albino body parts would bring them good luck.

“ADRA has been working with PWAs over the past four decades, focusing mainly on education,” said James Bisheko, ADRA programs manager in Tanzania. “This new pilot project is a unique one and probably gives the most relief to the recipients. It’s about skin cancer prevention, detection, and treatment by the use of cryosurgery technology. Cryosurgery uses liquid nitrogen to remove pre-cancerous lesions from the skin of people with albinism before it develops into cancer,” Bisheko explained.

 

  • Richard Costa, who was born with albinism, happily shows off his good skin, three months after the launch of a treatment initiative by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Tanzania. [Photo: James Bisheko, ADRA in Tanzania]
  • Richard Costa on his boda boda (motorcycle) that helps him to make income. [Photo: James Bisheko, ADRA in Tanzania]

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