Radiation protection for Albinos

Dr Peter Stoermer (left), SINASRA’s acting Chairperson with Paulus Johannes, Board member, Veronika Hamutenya, a patient from Kasivi Village in Rundu, and Dr Peggy Emvula of the Radio-oncology department at the Windhoek Central Hospital. The Albino community recently received a consignment of sunblocker lotion worth N$27,000 from the Ohorongo Otavi Community Trust with financial support of the German charity, Support e.V from Ulm.

Sunlight, indispensable for the production of Vitamin D in people with normal pigmentation, is also the bane of Albinos. Since Albinos lack pigmentation, the sun’s ultra violet rays are extremely harmful to their skin and particularly to their eyes.

The only protection is either mechanical, wearing protective clothing, or chemical, applying sunblockers. Since it is a genetic conditions, nothing can be done to restore their pigmentation. Sunshine does not lead to the production of more pigment, it only causes lesions and tumours, and degeneration of the eye’s retina.
Realising the severity of this impairment, the social investment arm of Ohorongo Cement, the Ohorongo Otavi Community Trust, donated sunscreen lotion to the value of N$27,000 for use by local Albinos. Specialized tubes of sunscreen lotion were handed to SINASRA as the representative and custodian of the Namibian Albino community by the Trust.
“The reason why the Trust decided to support SINASRA is the fact that they have the necessary manpower, the know-how, knowledge and the dedication to ensure that these sunscreens are distributed throughout Namibia to benefit the entire Namibian Albino Community,” said Carina Sowden, Marketing & Communications Manager of Ohorongo Cement.
“According to the census in 2011, there are an estimated 1600 Albino’s in Namibia. However, we reckon there are many more Albinos in the rural areas of whom we are not even aware. They need specialized sunscreen due to the very sensitive nature of their skins to prevent them from developing skin cancer,” said Dr Peter Stoermer from SINASRA. On behalf of the Albino community, he expressed their gratitude, saying these sunscreen lotion are very expensive since their formulation is so specialised.
“We are going to donate the sunscreen to all the hospitals throughout the country and it will be available free of charge to the Albino Community,’’ he said.
Radio oncologist at the Windhoek Central Hospital, Dr Peggy Emvula explained that the local Albino communities are familiar with the fact that they can obtain the sunscreen from all hospitals and special telescopic spectacles from all optometrists.
“For those in the far North of the country, we take some of the items and sunscreens along and distribute them there when we visit, to assist the Albinos who can not afford to travel all the way to Windhoek,” she said.
A new patient, Ms Veronika Hamutenya from Kasivi Village in Rundu, was only too happy to receive her first tube of specialised sunscreen lotion.
Support e.V, the charity that has raised the funds to buy the lotion, is a non-profit organization based in Ulm in Germany. It was founded by a group of medical doctors who made it their aim to support medical projects in the developing world through financial and humanitarian means as well as through donations. The word ‘SUPPORT’ is the abbreviation for the group’s rationale: sofortige und praktische Problemlösung vor Ort, translated as ‘immediate and practical problem solving on site’.
“Even though Ohorongo Cement is still a very young company within a new industry, it highly values Namibia and its people. Hence, in 2009, even before one bag of cement has been manufactured, Ohorongo Cement, in collaboration with the Otavi Town Council, started the Ohorongo Otavi Community Trust, together with Support e.V. Ulm, as a strategic partner on health issues” said Sowden.
The Trust’s aim is to make a positive contribution for improved living conditions in Otavi and for its people, for the sustainable social-economic development of the town.