Journal of Human Rights and Social Work (2018) 3:11–16
https://doi.org/10.1007/s41134-018-0048-5

Myths Surrounding Albinism and Struggles of Persons with Albinism
to Achieve Human Rights in Yaoundé, Cameroon
Léonie N. Dapi 1 & Betrand A. Tambe 2 & Francisca Monebenimp 1
Published online: 30 January 2018
# Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Abstract
Persons with albinism (PWA) in Yaoundé, Cameroon are reported to experience stigma, discrimination and violation of their
human rights based primarily on their lack of pigmentation in their skin, eyes and hair. This study explores the challenges faced
by persons with albinism, with particular reference to their knowledge of albinism, social and health issues and support. This
qualitative research study recruited persons with albinism through a non-probability sampling technique in the city of Yaoundé,
capital city of Cameroon. Data were collected through three focus group discussions with 19 persons (13 women and 6 men,
adults) with albinism and thematic content analysis was employed to analyze responses. Almost all participants revealed societal
discrimination, stigmatization, human rights violations, and some reported frustration due to injustice, rejection and superstitions.
All the participants had visual problems and 12 had skin diseases. These conditions were inadequately managed due to lack of
care, rejection by others, superstition and limited financial resources. The majority of participants had a good understanding of
albinism. This study urges social work interventions such as support groups for persons with albinism and their families;
educational awareness programmes; and advocacy for the rights of persons with albinism to healthcare, education and employment opportunities, and to demystify all myths and cultural beliefs surrounding albinism.
Keywords People with albinism . Discrimination . Minority group rights . Lack of care . Cameroon

Introduction
Albinism encompasses a group of inherited disorders of melanin synthesis, the pigment that protects the skin from ultraviolet
(UV) light from the sun. Persons with albinism (PWA) may
lack pigmentation in the skin, eyes and hair which is referred to
as oculocutaneous albinism (Nasr 2010). Oculocutaneous albinism (OCA) may cause visual impairment due to
hypopigmentation of the iris and retina, hypoplastic fovea, hyperopia, strabismus, photophobia, loss of stereoscopic

* Léonie N. Dapi
dapileo@hotmail.com
* Betrand A. Tambe
ayuk.betrand@yahoo.com
1

2

Department of Public Health, FMBS, University of Yaoundé 1,
P.O. Box 1937, Yaoundé, Cameroon
Centre for Food and Nutritional Research (CRAN), Institute of
Medical Research and Medicinal Plant Studies (IMPM), Ministry of
Scientific Research and Innovation, P.O. Box 6361,
Yaoundé, Cameroon

perception and nystagmus (Eballé et al. 2013; Simona 2004).
This visual handicap significantly hampers their educational
performance because they cannot read nor see the blackboard
well. It also causes irreversible skin pathology such as skin
cancer due to the lack of melanin that protects the skin against
ultraviolet (Aquaron 1990; Kromberg et al. 1989).
Oculocutaneous albinism (OCA) is prevalent among indigenous people in Africa. The precise prevalence of albinism in
the human race is not clear but estimates say that the ratio is
about 1 in 17,000 (Wiete 2011). The estimates of the prevalence of albinism in Africa range from 1 in 5000 to 1 in 15,000
(Phatoli et al. 2015). It is obvious that the condition is more
noticeable in Africa and thus also spurs more moral misconceptions in society (Hong et al. 2006).

Albinism Myths and Misconceptions
The difference in skin creates adaptation and socialisation
problems, with many myths and misconceptions surrounding
PWA that have spread over the years within many African
communities for diverse reasons (Scheen 2009; Thuku
2011). Views from Zimbabwe and Tanzania on the ritual

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