Liberia: Albino farmers’ urgent cry for help (by Prince Collins, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| May 11, 2014

Download this story

Musu Morris plants cassava under the bright, hot sun. She is worried about her skin. Mrs. Morris and other albino farmers in Liberia not only face discrimination because of their lack of pigmentation; they also suffer from higher rates of skin cancer.

Mrs. Morris says: “We need help right now. Not tomorrow but now. We are dying from skin cancer. Our government is not doing much about this.”

Patricia Logan is the president of the Liberia Albino Society, and is also worried about skin cancer. Several albino farmershave died in recent years, and many others are affected. Mrs. Logan explains: “Our people are dying from skin cancer every year … We have lost eight of our people, mainly local farmers, from skin cancer and there are more to come.”

Mrs. Logan said the Society has increased its advocacy work across the country. The organization wants albinos to be aware of the danger and to protect themselves. She says: “We have done a lot of advocacy and education when it comes to cancer, [such as] how they can protect themselves.” TheSociety’s main message is the importance of sunblock creams, which they supply to their members.

There are approximately 500 albinos in Liberia, and more than 200 are urban or rural farmers. Albinos tend to suffer from short-sightedness, which makes it difficult to clearly see objects at a distance. They would like help from government and donors to get corrective lenses. This would allow them to manage bigger farms.

Albino children are often bullied in schools and their needs are frequently overlooked, even within their own families. Mrs. Logan says: “When it comes to schooling, parents …prefer putting the money into their black children. I don’t know if it is because of their eyesight or the way they look. People just look at them as the least person in society. Because of that, they are left behind.”

Mrs. Morris sends her kids to school with the money she earns from her cassava harvest. But, she says: “We suffer from the sun because our pigmentation is very low. In the evening we get chilly, we get sick and [get] sores on our lips. What black people can [deal with], we cannot. The sun causes a lot of harm to us.”

Mrs. Logan is keen to point out that albino children are like any others. Given the chance, they, too, can contribute to society.