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Calling for an end to stigma and discrimination against children and youth with albinism in South African schools

The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) has called for an end to stigma and discrimination against people with albinism. September has been declared as South Africa's National Albinism Awareness Month to highlight their plight, challenges and finding solutions. The DWYPD in collaboration with the National Albinism Task Force, will host an Albinism Community Outreach programme and webinar for youth with Albinism to engage on pressing issues faced by children, youth and persons with albinism under the theme, “Inclusion is Strength,” which builds on last year's theme of, “United in making our voice heard”.

Albinism is a rare, non-contagious and genetically inherited condition which occurs worldwide regardless of ethnicity or gender, which reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair or eyes and occurs in all racial and ethnic groups globally. The declaration of 13 June by the General Assembly in 2015 as International Albinism Awareness Day (IAAD) highlights the critical need for the world to recognise the plight of persons with albinism. Many persons with albinism continue to suffer human rights abuses and violations, often invisibly and in silence. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are particularly relevant; both guarantee protection against discrimination. Equality and non-discrimination are essential human rights principles for people with albinism, owing to their vision impairment and their needs regarding preventive measures to address their vulnerability to skin cancer.

During National Suicide Prevention Month in September, Government strives to promote preventative measures to curb suicide, which is the fourth leading cause of death amongst 15-29 year olds globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) approximates that suicide attempts are made every three seconds, whilst a suicide occurs every 40 seconds. Academic hospitals in South Africa have reported that the average rate of suicide is 17.2 per 100,000, contributing to 8% of all deaths. In South Africa, 60% of people who commit suicide are depressed. Some of the triggers and risk factors include a previous suicide attempt; substance use; mood disorders; loss and other traumatic events; and bullying. Some warning signs to look out for are loss of interest in academic activities; appearance or hygiene; increased alcohol and drug use; withdrawal and self-isolation; talking about death and dying; and making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless.

A clarion call is therefore made to South Africans to treat persons with albinism with respect and dignity and assist in supporting them wherever possible to feel included within our schools and communities.

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