Uganda: Parliament Can Do More for People Living With Albinism

The former Speaker said while still at the helm of the August House, she championed the tax waiver on the sunscreen lotions.

The First Deputy Prime Minister, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, has challenged the leadership of Parliament to consider employing persons with albinism to shore up inclusivity in the country.

While officiating at national celebrations to commemorate the International Albinism Awareness Day in Jinja on Thursday, Ms Kadaga said Parliament should be the vanguard of persons with albinism.

The former Speaker said while still at the helm of the August House, she championed the tax waiver on the sunscreen lotions.

“We held several back and forth meetings with officials at the Ministry of Finance, planning and economic development to convince them that scrap off tax on sunscreen lotions because they’re not a luxury but a life-saving need to the people living with albinism,” Kadaga said.

She said she left an indelible mark in Parliament by bringing the plight of albinos to light.

“I was the first Speaker to employ a person living with albinism at Parliament and she is still there, I also employed one at my hotel in Kamuli,” said Kadaga, who is also the Minister for East African Community affairs.

Ms Kadaga wondered why her successors are not doing more to fight for the rights of people living with albinism.

“I thought my successors would start from where I left but to-date, no other people with albinism has been employed again at Parliament,” she said.

However, the Director of Public Affairs and Communication at Parliament, Mr Chris Obore, said employment of people with disabilities at Parliament is “not for any political actor to vend around as a personal political score”.

“Parliament is not anyone’s personal institution,” he said.

“There are many other people with disabilities who have joined the parliamentary service, however; I am constrained to name them because it perpetuates stigma. We treat them like all capable staff deserving of employment at Parliament.”

Mr Obore said employment with the parliamentary service is subject to interviews and that those currently with the institution performed excellently.

“If a politician wants credit, would they employ any person without competences simply because they are discriminated?” he said.

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Ms Kadaga was responding to concerns raised by activists led by Peter Ogiki, the executive director of Source of the Nile People with Albinism (SNUPA), who noted with concern that many albinos are discriminated in job opportunities because of their condition.

“We have so many professionals among us including lawyers, engineers, and other fields but majority are unemployed due to marginalisation,” Ogiki said.

He also reiterated the call for government to include distribution of sunscreen lotions at lower health centres .

“Majority of our colleagues are having skin cancer due to direct contact with sun rays there we continue to implore government to consider including sun screen lotions among the essential drugs distributed at health Centre IIIs to leverage the situation,” he said.

According to Ogiki, other essential services which are still missing include inadequate cryoguns and less trained dermatologists to handle their skin care.

Cryoguns are an indispensable tool used to treat, destroy and remove unwanted tissue. They are helpful for albinos in detecting skin cancer.

“We have few dermatologists in the country, hence government should consider training more to be placed upto health centre IIIs across the country,” Ogiki said.

A similar message was echoed by the National Member of Parliament for Persons with Disabilities, Norah Kanushu, and the Executive Director of National Union of Persons with Disabilities Esther Kyozira.

The stakeholders called upon government to operationalise the National Action Plan on persons with albinism.

The National Action Plan is just on paper but not implemented at all, it talks about inclusivity in all aspects be it education, health, social services among others but it is not applicable.

The plan stresses issues such as of people with albinism are short sighted and they cannot see far but teachers are not sensitised to consider putting them in front in classroom.

It also says people with albinism cannot access some government programs like Emyooga which calls for having a specific number of members in the SACCO.

Albinos, who are categorised among the persons with disabilities, say sometimes it is very hard to mobilise the required number of PWDs in a particular constituency to qualify to access such funds.