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Reinstate Free Skin Cancer Treatment of Our Members, Albinism Association calls on Buhari

Albinism Association of Nigeria (AAN), the umbrella body of persons with Albinism in Nigeria has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to reinstate the free skin cancer treatment of Persons with Albinism (PWA) which was implemented by previous governments.

The group made this call during a press conference organized by the group in collaboration with The Albino Foundation in Abuja on Thursday to mark National Albinism Day.

Mr. Jake Epelle who is the President of AAN and the founder and CEO of The Albino Foundation (TAF) speaking on behalf the group requested that Mr. President should reinstate the free skin cancer treatment of persons with albinism in Nigeria.

He recounted the successes of the free skin cancer treatment for PWA which successive governments from President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Goodluck Jonathan have implemented.

“It is important to recount some of the efforts we have made to attract one or more interventions from the Federal Government and other important development partners targeted at improving the lot of PWA. In 2007 we had initiated a Public-Private-Partnership with the Obasanjo Administration during which the government launched a Skin Cancer Intervention for PWA at the National Hospital and other designated States and Private Hospitals. Although, this intervention continued through the regime of former Late President Musa Yar’adua, it was first bankrolled in 2013 by the Federal Ministry of Finance Service-wide vote. The arrangement had earmarked and expended 17.8 million Naira, alongside other useful resources for this effort. Over 5000 Nigerians with albinism got treated as a result of this opportunity. However, this milestone was seemingly discontinued under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari”.

Mr. Epelle said “Over the years, our drive for inclusion in all strata of the Nigerian Society is spurred by the significant number of persons with disabilities which the African Disability Rights Yearbook reported that as at 2020 there are over 27 million of Nigerians with some form of disability. Out of this number, there are about 4 million PWA currently in the country who by dint of nature, struggle with one or more forms of diseases including the dreaded skin cancer. There is no gainsaying the fact that all PWAs are at great risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma of sun-exposed skin, and Black Persons with Albinism in sub-Saharan Africa are at about a 1000-fold higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma of the skin than the general population. This scourge of skin cancer ravaging the community of PWA is not only life-threatening but functionally decimating the lives of Nigerians who have albinism as statistics show that about 3 PWA die from it every month.”

“Despite the fact that this current government has discontinued the free skin cancer treatment of PWA, the government is contributing to the treatment of cancer such as breast, cervical and prostate cancers. Program such as Cancer Health Fund by Ministry of Health where the government voted 1 billion naira for cancer treatment. As laudable as this program is, skin cancer was not captured under this program and it is important to reiterate that special attention needs to be placed on PWAs who are suffering from skin cancer. The President had assured the PWA community after he had listened to a BBC Hausa Advocacy campaign on cancer cases amongst PWA that he would return the previous Skin Cancer Intervention for PWA, regrettably, nothing has been done to expedite action on the promise”.

On this premise, the group while marking the National Albinism Day focusing on Skin Cancer with a theme “Save Our Soul” made the following passionate requests to Mr. President.

  1. Reinstate the Skin Cancer Intervention Program, review the previous administration’s implementation of the program with the aim of setting up the requisite policy instruments that will make it functional and sustainable.
  2. Approve the inclusion of Skin Cancer Care to scope of current Cancer Health Fund which takes care of Breast, Cervical and Prostate Cancer under this government.
  3. Galvanize local and international support for possible collaboration and funding Support for Skin Cancer for PWA. Special attention may be may be placed on the United Nation Aid (UNAID), they are ready to extend arm of fellowship towards addressing the issue of skin cancer among PWA.

“Skin cancer is killing a lot of persons with albinism. Something urgent needs to be done for enhance access medical healthcare by PWA. Late President Yar’Adua through Ministry of Health approved six designated hospitals to cover each geopolitical zones but unfortunately, the only hospital that have implemented the directive was National Hospital, Abuja. There is need that President Muhammad Buhari to reinstate that free treatment. The skin cancer surgery is very expensive and it is estimated that an average of three persons with albinism die every month as a result of skin cancer, even though this data is unverified, this is something that we have worked on in the community and have aggregated to come to that conclusion”

The group also urged the President to flag off the Sun-Protection Campaign, a policy framework targeted at increased advocacy on the causes of skin cancer led by the Ministry of Health and other relevant MDAs in such a manner that will stimulate inter-ministerial efforts reinvented for creating enduring campaign on Sun-Protection Campaign for PWA.

The General Secretary of the Association, Daniel Adeniyi in his speech called on the general public to join in signing a petition for the government to reinstate the free treatment for skin cancer. He said that about 2,000 people have signed the petition but they are looking for 10,000 people to sign the petition which is on CHANGE platform.

Add your signature to a worthy cause; sign the petition to save the lives of persons with albinism with skin cancer in Nigeria. It takes 60 seconds:

https://chng.it/JpDNp6Rv

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