People with albinism face multiple forms of discrimination worldwide. Albinism is still profoundly misunderstood, socially and medically.
The physical appearance of persons with albinism is often the object of erroneous beliefs and myths influenced by superstition, which foster their marginalization and social exclusion.
This leads to various forms of stigma and discrimination.
In some communities, erroneous beliefs and myths, heavily influenced by superstition, put the security and lives of persons with albinism at constant risk.
These beliefs and myths are centuries old and are present in cultural attitudes and practices around the world.
Albinism is a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited difference present at birth.
In almost all types of albinism, both parents must carry the gene for it to be passed on, even if they do not have albinism themselves.
The condition is found in both sexes regardless of ethnicity and in all countries of the world.
Albinism results in a lack of pigmentation (melanin) in the hair, skin and eyes, causing vulnerability to the sun and bright light.
As a result, almost all people with albinism are visually impaired and are prone to developing skin cancer.
There is no cure for the absence of melanin that is central to albinism.
While numbers vary, it is estimated that in North America and Europe 1 in every 17,000 to 20,000 people have some form of albinism.
The condition is much more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, with estimates of 1 in 1,400 people being affected in Tanzania and prevalence as high as 1 in 1,000 reported for select populations in Zimbabwe and for other specific ethnic groups in Southern Africa.
Due to a lack of melanin in the skin and eyes, persons with albinism often have permanent visual impairment which often lead to disabilities.
They also face discrimination due to their skin colour; as such, they are often subject to multiple and intersecting discrimination on the grounds of both disability and colour.
Persons with albinism face more severe forms of discrimination and violence in those regions where the majority of the general population are relatively dark-skinned.
In other words, a greater degree of contrast in pigmentation often gives rise to a greater degree of discrimination. That appears to be the case in some sub-Saharan African countries where albinism is shrouded in myth and dangerous and erroneous beliefs. The figures on violations against persons with albinism are telling.
Since 2010, there have been around 700 cases of attacks and killings of persons with albinism in 28 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
These are reported cases alone. The attacks have several root causes including ignorance, longstanding stigma, poverty and most abhorrently, harmful practices emanating from manifestation of beliefs in witchcraft. The alarming reality is that these horrendous practices continue today.
This theme has been chosen to recognize, celebrate and encourage strength in persons with albinism.
We also wish to recognize that despite all the past and ongoing challenges faced by persons with albinism (from stigma and discrimination around the world to discrimination in health and education and finally, attacks and violations), we are STILL STANDING STRONG!
There will continue to be celebrations throughout the world, large and small, shining a light on albinism. In previous years members of the NOAH community have organized classroom talks, meet-ups for dinner or lunch, awareness walks, and fashion shows.
The possibilities are endless.