Albinos demand waiver on sunscreen products

May 4, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 4 – The Albinism Society of Kenya (ASK) wants equality in the provision of healthcare with a demand that Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta should waive tax on sunscreen products used by albinos, in the 2011/2012 budget.

ASK Chairman Alex Munyere said the government should facilitate the move in order to save lives and prevent the development of skin cancer in albinos.

He noted that one tube of 100 millilitres of sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor 50, which is recommended for use by albinos, costs more than Sh1,300.

"We need this sunscreen for our survival and we need the government to provide sunscreen in all public chemists such that when I go to hospital, just like diabetic gets insulin… I should get sunscreen," he argued.

"The cheaper versions of sunscreen such as Factor 20 or 30 won\’t do much," he explained.

People living with albinism are at a higher risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) and are required to wear protective clothing and also use sunscreen.

However, the government only promised a blanket waiver of duty on the products. This means that the ASK has to ship them in on behalf of its members in order for the taxes to be lifted.

"The government does not want to waive tax on every sunscreen products because they are categorised under beauty products. So we are entering into a memorandum of understanding with the government such that the sunscreen we import as a society, is not taxed."

Mr Munyere was speaking during the inaugural national day for people living with albinism in Kenya, where he noted that such persons continued facing discrimination in their daily lives.

He also said that there was need to amend the Disabilities Act, to explicitly mention persons living with albinism, and create more awareness to fight prejudice.

"We just don\’t want to ride on the Disabilities Act; we need a specific chapter that addresses our concerns because they are unique and unless they are addressed uniquely, they will be easily forgotten," he said.

Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa reiterated his past position asking the Minister for Planning Wycliffe Oparanya to organise a special census for persons living with albinism.

He argued that the numbers would help the government make sufficient plans to meet the needs of such persons in the society.

"As a nation we have been cruel to those in our society who are persons with albinism; we have been cruel because we have been indifferent for all these years. The time has come when we can do something about a situation that we have turned a blind eye to," he argued.

The government promised to conduct a population census for people living with albinism last year but has not yet done so.

Mr Wamalwa further challenged the ASK to ensure that its membership nominated someone to represent it in Parliament after next year\’s elections. He argued that the move would ensure albinos got the space to participate in the country\’s governance structures.

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Fatma Dulo also asked the ASK to profile all the challenges that its members faced in the country so as to have them addressed.

"That way you will be able to have one voice because even in politics you need to have that voice and those numbers in order to be heard," she said.

Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo and nominated MP Rachel Shebesh were also present.

Mr Gumbo asked Kenyans to avoid tribal politics.

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