Obroni koko – Albinism in Ghana

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“Obroni koko” is an expression in twi, a local language widely spoken in Ghana, that literally translates to “white person white”. It’s used by many Ghanaians to designate Caucasian people, but also Africans with albinism.

Albinism is a genetic, hereditary disorder characterized by a lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin and eyes. The pigment that gives skin its color, called melanin, is also a key element in the development of the eye. Its absence usually results in poor eyesight – most people with albinism are short-sighted. Children who look “strange”, already disadvantaged by poor eyesight, are sometimes asked to sit in the back by ill-informed teachers.

Left without its natural protection from the sun, the skin burns easily and is more susceptible to develop cancer. Under the African sun, many will develop skin cancer before the age of 20. Without proper education, especially in rural areas, people lack the basic knowledge on how to protect themselves. Sunscreen is expensive and generally unavailable, out of reach for all but a few.

But in Africa, what can be even more difficult is simply to look different.

The unusual appearance of people with albinism is often the source of embarrassing remarks, mockeries, and urban legends.

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