National Albinism Awareness Day takes place on Tuesday, June 13. According to the Albino Foundation, the United Nations General Assembly made a declaration at its sixty-ninth session on December 14th, 2014 that International Albinism Awareness Day would take place every year on this day. This day of celebration is used to “draw attention to states and members of the public on the issues and challenges faced by persons with albinism and [the] albinism community all over the world.”
Albinism is an inherited condition where a person lacks the gene for producing melanin. Persons with albinism may lack the pigment in the skin, eyes, and hair. Melanin protects the skin from UV light from the sun. In non-white races, those with albinism will have much lighter skin than others in the family. Unfortunately, this often leads to stigma and discrimination. People with albinism are extremely vulnerable, especially in areas without much support.
In the United States and Europe, rates of Albinism are fairly low, at 1 in every 17,000 to 20,000. In Africa, rates are much higher, at 1 in every 5,000 to 15,000. In some parts of Africa, the rates can be as high as 1 in 1,000. The rate of albinism in Nigeria is among the highest in the world. More than two million albinos live in Nigeria. Nigeria is home to the Albino Foundation and puts on one of the biggest celebrations of National Albinism Awareness Day. The June 13 event in Nigeria takes place at the National Human Rights Commission in Maitama-Abuja.The Albinism Society of Kenya will also put on a celebration event on Tuesday. This society made great strides for awareness earlier this year when they crowned the first ever Mr and Miss Albinism.
The Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism will be putting on an event as well. Adam Abdul-Wahab, a member of the organization, speaks to the importance of awareness, “Albinos still live in fear,” he says. Abdul-Wahab speaks about how albinos face discrimination, experience unique challenges like increased rates of skin cancer, and often have to fear for their lives. Some communities in Ghana, he says, don’t allow albinos to live in their midst. A day of celebration and awareness campaigns may help, but there is still a long way to go.
In the US, NOAH will be leading a Shine The Light campaign. They are having a video challenge and encourage people across the US to put on their own June 13 gatherings or to give a presentation to a school or club.