IMPROVING SKIN HEALTH IN FIJI & THE PACIFIC
The work done by this team is to support people with skin disease in the Pacific including people living with Albinism. This is financially supported through the St Vincent's Hospital "Improving Skin Health in Fiji & The Pacific Trust Fund". Donations to this fund are tax deductible.
Today in Fiji and the Pacific there are people living with Albinism
Albinism is a genetic condition, which causes lack of pigmentation of the skin, hair and eyes. It also causes a very high risk of skin cancers and usually very poor vision, which can result in social isolation and stigma.
Children with albinism have normal intelligence and no other health issues; therefore if their educational problems with low vision are addressed and they look after their skin they can lead full and productive lives.
WHAT IS OUR ROLE IN FIJI?
The Fiji Albinism Project (FAP) was established in 2015.
With support from St Vincent Trust Fund in Australia and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services it currently has been given an office space at Tamavua Twomey Hospital in Suva Fiji, next to the dermatology department offices.
FAP was established to promote positive changes in the attitude of the general public on health issues that negatively impact those with Albinism in Fiji, and to inform and support them where possible.
• To improve skin health of people with Albinism in Fiji.
• To raise awareness on issues affecting the lives of persons with albinism at all levels of society.
• To provide information and support services to persons with albinism on skin care and eye care, and make referrals as pathways to appropriate services
• To build the capacity of key stakeholders such as medical and welfare officers including teachers on issues affecting persons with albinism.
• To advocate for proper research on Albinism in Fiji and the wider Pacific region.
• To advocate for the development of inclusive framework on social support system for persons with albinism.
Can we help improve the skin of people with Albinism:
Yes we have already started
• By education of people living with Albinism, also people in the community about the dangers of the sun, and the importance of identifying and treating early skin cancers.
• By introducing liquid nitrogen into the skin clinic so sunspots and early skin cancers can be treated.
• The Ministry of Health in Fiji is the first country to provide sun screen for people living with Albinism and the FAP is helping co-ordinate this witih the Fiji Ministry of Health.
We are especially proud of Fiji's Special Inclusive Educational Policy for children with albinism:
• Children with Albinism share the right to a good education. They have the ability and potential, and must be given the same opportunities.
• Children with albinism are to be allowed to wear hats, long sleeve shirts and sunglasses and apply sunscreen in school setting whilst in school.
• Due to their low vision, they are allowed to sit at the front of the class with their backs to the windows and move around freely depending on brightness in the room.
• They now have access to large font documents during tests and exams.
• Teachers are to help children with albinism avoid the sun as much as possible by giving indoor activities and duties allowing them to enjoy at the same time
• Rather than sharing, children with Albinism should have their own textbooks.
• To avoid ill treatment and bullying in school, teachers will explain Albinism to other pupils, helping them understand the condition and the special needs of affected children avoiding bullying.
INTERNATIONAL ALBINISM AWARENESS DAY
The first symposium for persons with albinism was organized in Fiji in August 2015. Two hundred participants representing Government departments, development agencies, civil society organizations, education institutions and persons with albinism gathered in Suva and discussed issues on albinism. The symposium provided a platform for setting directions for the formal establishment of the Fiji Albinism Project (FAP).
Prior to this event, a one day workshop on albinism was organized in 2014 by Fiji Society for the Blind and facilitated by dermatologist Dr Margot Whitfeld from St Vincent Hospital in Sydney Australia. A steering committee was formed to implement the recommendations that derived from the workshop which included the organizing of the said symposium.
Successive International Albinism Awawreness days were held in Fiji Suva Park in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Sr Helen Maguire said that "This is a day set up to make us aware that children and adults with albinism, known as“ rea” in iTaukei, have the same human rights as everyone else"
In June 20I3 the UN adopted its first ever resolution on albinism. Following this, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva recommended to the General Assembly) that the Day is recognised with the first International Albinism Awareness Day being held in 2015.
Celebration of International Albinism Awareness Day aims to make the school and general community aware of the issues people with albinism may face, and to ensure that they are not misunderstood or treated badly while being included in all aspects of Fijian life, whether it be at home, school, church, work, or in the community.