Following the enormous challenges faced by persons with albinism in accessing health facilities especially as it relates to the free treatment of skin cancer in Nigeria, the National Council on Health at its 61st regular session held in Kano, Kano state approved the decentralization of the skin cancer treatment to six designated federal teaching hospitals. The hospitals are; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; University Teaching Hospital, Ibadan; University of Jos Teaching Hospital, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital; University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital; Ahmed Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria and National Hospital, Abuja.
Living with albinism can be very challenging. Persons with albinism are susceptible to specific health conditions, principally dermatological and ophthalmic vulnerabilities, requiring higher levels of care and attention. Because of their delicate skin (low melanin) type, 99.9% of persons with albinism are susceptible to skin cancer; thus, skin cancer is the highest health risk persons with albinism face. Increased unprotected exposure to the sun enhances the possibilities of skin cancer and other skin related diseases in persons with albinism. Unfortunately, as a result of ignorant, poverty and discrimination persons with albinism especially those in the rural areas find it difficult to access preventive measures that will reduce their prevalent rate of acquiring skin cancer related diseases. Even where facilities are available persons with albinism hardly afford the high cost of treatment resulting to many of these patients to look up to God until the time of their death.
It is as a result of this that the foundation sent a Ministerial Memo to the council through Hon. Minister of Health requesting for decentralization of the free skin cancer treatment to persons with albinism in Nigeria to cover the six designated teaching hospitals across the six geo-political zones of the country, which they have approved. Before now, it was only the National Hospital, Abuja that offers free skin cancer treatment to persons with albinism in Nigeria. Unfortunately, not many persons with albinism affected with skin cancer accesses this treatment due to distance and lack of awareness.
To further ensure that the designated teaching hospitals carry out the directives of the Council, the foundation made a PowerPoint presentation on the need for the CMDs’ support for decentralization of the free skin cancer treatment at a Committee Meeting of Chief Medical Directors held on 23rd – 27th July, 2018 in Abuja. In addition, the foundation has written to the Hon. Minister of Health to compel the affected hospitals to commence the free skin cancer treatment without delay.
The foundation will equally be visiting the respective hospitals to further strengthen the relationship and work out modalities on how to make their facilities more accessible to persons with albinism affected with skin cancer.