The struggles faced by people with albinism in Somalia

In Somalia, people with albinism face immense stigma and discrimination. Elmi Bile Mohamed, a 25-year-old with albinism, shares his experience of being ostracized by his community. He describes how he and his brothers were insulted, beaten, and mocked for their pale skin, hair, and eyes. As a result, they were unable to find a place to live and were subjected to continuous harassment and cruelty.

The discrimination goes beyond verbal abuse and social exclusion. People with albinism in Somalia are physically attacked and even feared for their supposed ability to harm others. They are pelted with stones and raw eggs, as locals believe that this will protect them from the perceived curse of albinism. The fear and ignorance surrounding albinism have led to devastating consequences for individuals like Mohamed, who struggle to find employment and sustain a livelihood.

Despite being a genetic condition and not contagious, the misconception that albinism is infectious has caused businesses to lose customers. Mohamed lost his job as a restaurant cleaner when customers refused to eat there due to their baseless fear of infection. This has resulted in him resorting to begging on the streets to make ends meet, further exacerbating his already challenging circumstances.

The lack of melanin in people with albinism leaves them vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer. The absence of protective pigmentation also affects their eyes, leading to various eye problems, including vision deterioration. However, the financial constraints faced by individuals like Mohamed make it nearly impossible for them to afford essential sunblock, protective clothing, and sunglasses. As a result, they endure constant physical discomfort and deteriorating eyesight due to exposure to sunlight and pollutants in the environment.

One significant issue faced by people with albinism in Somalia is the lack of available data. The country’s decades-long conflict and instability have hindered the gathering of reliable information on the number of people living with albinism. This lack of data makes it even more challenging to address the needs and rights of this marginalized community.

In an effort to combat the stigma and discrimination, a group called Somali Albinos was formed by approximately 80 families living with albinism in Mogadishu. They aim to raise awareness about their plight and advocate for their rights. However, they face an uphill battle as people with disabilities in Somalia have formed organizations that receive support from the government and international bodies, while those with albinism are left without any formal support or protection.

The discrimination extends to children with albinism, who rarely receive an education due to severe prejudice. The risk of being stoned and physically attacked has forced parents, like Asha Gele, to keep their children indoors to ensure their safety. This leaves these children isolated, without the opportunity to learn or interact with their peers.

The situation has dire consequences for families like Gele’s, who sacrifice their businesses and struggle to make ends meet for the sake of their children’s safety. Poverty, lack of education, and social exclusion put additional strain on families already grappling with the challenges of raising children with albinism.

To alleviate the impact of discrimination, it is crucial to educate the Somali population about albinism. By dispelling myths and promoting understanding, people can realize that individuals with albinism are no different from themselves. Additionally, raising awareness at a national level and implementing protective measures are essential steps toward ensuring the rights and well-being of people with albinism in Somalia.

Efforts also need to be made to provide financial support for essential resources like sunblock, clothing, and eyewear. Collaborations with international organizations and the Somali diaspora can help provide these necessary supplies, alleviating the physical discomfort and health risks faced by individuals with albinism.

Ultimately, overcoming ignorance, challenging societal norms, and advocating for the rights of people with albinism are crucial steps toward creating a more inclusive and accepting society in Somalia. By challenging the deeply ingrained prejudices, the Somali population can recognize the value and contributions of individuals with albinism and ensure that they are not subjected to further discrimination and hardship.