Liberia: Albinos in Dire Straits; Stage Peaceful Protest for More Budgetary Support from Govt
Monrovia – Facing eviction from their office and medical center in Logan Town, Albinos in Liberia staged a peaceful protest Tuesday, looking to draw the government’s attention to their plight while pressing for increase in their budget allocation.
“Our entire facility is out of drugs and there are people, especially children who need it the most and the only vehicle we procured from government is parked because there is no money to fuel it,” lamented Patricia Logan, Chief Executive Director of the Liberia Albino Society.
Logan said she and members of the society could soon be kicked out of their building which they use as both office space and medical center, if the government of Liberia don’t come to their aid.
Craving Government’s Attention
The deadline for their eviction is November 30th 2019.
Explaining the reason for the Albinos protest Tuesday, Logan explained that in recent months, the George Weah-led government had turned its backs on the society. “The government is not treating our condition as a special one and at the same time the institution is almost at collapse when it comes to finance. They need to give us attention. Where are we, this is too much. This institution has never come outside before to protest. The institution composed of medical department and Administrative department and all of the departments are about to short down.”
The Albinos protest Tuesday was the first by the society since it was established in 2009 and Logan stressed that it was a non-political protest but rather a simple cry to government to come to their aid. “We are buttressing government efforts through our work but why will this government allow us to be ashamed?” She asked as she shed tears.
The Albino leader added that during the electioneering period, the Albino society was promised by President Weah that “they were not going to be left out in his agenda but that isn’t the case presently.”
The Logan center was dedicated in 2012 during the presidency of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who signaled at the time that it was the beginning of a brighter future for Albinos in a bid to fight discrimination.
The center caters to more than 6000 people living with the congenital disorder which affects the production of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. Albinos – with their very pale complexions – have certain physical challenges, such as being more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancers.
The medical center run by the Albinos society not only caters to Albinos but also helps regular residents in the Logan Town and Bushrod Island communities.
In addition, the center offers training and access to micro-loans, computers, electricity, masonry, plumbing, agriculture.
SoS Plea to Government
When asked by our reporter if there has been any consultation between her office and the President’, Ms. Logan assured that she has been communicating. “We have done a series of letters. I have spoken to the Deputy Chief of Protocol, Mell Johnson and she told me that they were working on something so that the president can meet us but since May of last year still he has not been able to listen to what we have to say.” She averred.
Logan said during the presidency of ex-president Sirleaf, conditions were much better for Albinos and they were given special attention. “The former president did not do so. Any time issues were confronting us, she will make sure she contacts the relevant person in charge to meet our demands but today it has changed and we have been left in the cold.”
The Albino Society is meanwhile demanding that the government of Liberia restore the society’s budget allocation back to 100,000 US dollars instead of 75,000 US dollars. They are also appealing to the GoL to rescue their situation and buy the building that they are about to be evicted from so that the institution can continue to aid Albinos and the less fortunate in the community.
Responding to the protestors on behalf of the government, the Deputy Minister for Research, Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Gender, Hassan Kanneh assured the protestors that all of their demands will be taken into consideration. “As I am speaking to you, all of these counts, we will take into consideration, hopefully today and tomorrow we might have a meeting with them,” he declared.
When asked if the Ministry has been challenged as it relates to why Albinos are protesting, Min. Kanneh said no, but stated that the ministry has been negotiating with the Albino society in handling some of their challenges. “More besides, we have to send our team to do monitoring and evaluation of whatever problem they are stating, so that we approach it the right way,” he said.
Ostracized, Discriminated Against
As it relates to the issue of more budgetary allotment, the minister averred that the Gender Ministry will try its best in negotiating with the Minister of Finance and the Central government in finding a way to bring the situation under control.
Mr. Kanneh affirmed that Albinos needs special attention because they form a part of the vulnerable society. “We have submitted a lot of proposals to our partners for people with special needs like them,” he added.
Albinos in Liberia have endured discrimination, marginalization and unemployment and unemployment for years and many have been ostracized because of the way they look.
Discrimination is not limited to Liberia alone. According to the International Federation for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, between 2007 and 2009, at least 10,000 people with albinism in Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi abandoned their villages and went into hiding to escape threats and other discrimination.