Albinism in Kenya
Albinism in Kenya refers to a group of inherited conditions that causes little. Or no pigmentation in the eyes, skin or hair. A genetic mutation that causes a lack or deficiency in melanin in the body. The photo-protective pigment that protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Resulting in physical characteristics like white or light blond hair. Violet to blue eyes, very pale skin that is particularly sensitive to the sun. People with albinism often wear long-sleeved clothing due to the inability of their eyes to function properly and the alteration of nerve connections to the brain caused by insufficient melanin. Hats and prescription glasses as a measure of protection against the sun.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has conducted studies on albinism in Africa. And found that the prevalent form of albinism is Oculocutaneous albinism (OCA). Which encompasses a heterogeneous group of genetic conditions with an autosomal recessive inheritance.
It is characterized by hypopigmentation of the skin. Hair and eyes due to a reduced or lack of cutaneous melanin pigment production. Consequently, in Africa , the affected individuals have sandy coloured hair. White chalky skin and light brown or blue eyes. Making them more susceptible to the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
There are two types of OCA: tyrpsinase negative (OCA1) and tyrosinase positive (OCA2). In OCA1, there is little or no melanin production due to the lack of a functional tyrosinase. The critical enzyme required in the melanin biosynthetic pathway. In the more prevalent OCA2 type there is some level of tyrosinase activity. Thereby producing some red-yellow photomelanin pigment that gives rise to sandy coloured hair and light brown irises.
There is growing evidence of social discrimination and stigmatization directed towards this population. Along with their differences in appearance, a lack of knowledge about albinism in the community leads to such stigma. For example, the etiological beliefs about albinism continue to be heavily influenced by culture and superstition, rather than genetics. The major goal of theses studies was to review the current knowledge on public health aspects of albinism in Africa , focusing on the epidemiology as well as medical and social issues. The WHO studies recommend further actions to alleviate the albinism situation in the affected populations and countries.
Kenyan government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said the ASK’s allegations that Kenyan authorities have been doing little to protect albinos is misleading.
“As a government we have to ensure full implementation of laws on the right to life, equal opportunity and non-discrimination on the basis of physical appearance, disability or colour,” he told Sabahi. “Just like the rest of the citizens, we have guaranteed the people with albinism equal rights.”
Kariuki said the police have been investigating cases and the government has already begun acting in response to the group’s petition.
“We are currently carrying out a census to ascertain the exact numbers of people with albinism so we can be able to plan and provide for their needs fully,” he said. “[For] the rest on protection laws, we leave it to the legislative arm of government, which is the parliament.”
Kariuki said the Kenyan government would lobby Tanzania on the group’s behalf to implement and pass similar laws and policies.