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KICKED OUT AFTER GIVING BIRTH TO CHILD WITH ALBINISM

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MBABANE - A 35-year-old woman of Nkoyoyo had to spend three nights in a tunnel with her newborn, after giving birth to a child with albinism.

The woman was allegedly kicked out of the rented flat she shared with the father of her two children soon after she gave birth to their second child, who has albinism. During an interview with this publication, *Martha explained that she gave birth to her second child three weeks ago. “When I delivered my baby, she was different from what I had expected. Her skin tone and the colour of her eyes were different. The nurses and doctors told me that the baby had a condition of albinism,’’ she said. Further narrating her story, Martha mentioned that the nurses then took her for counseling so she was mentally ready to live with her newborn. Apparently, she was invited together with the father of the child to the counselling session, but he allegedly never participated.

Denied

“On his first visit to the hospital, he saw the baby and started acting funny. He denied fathering the child and said he wanted nothing to do with us and called me all sorts of names,’’ alleged Martha. When she was discharged from hospital, she went home only to be met with an enraged man who wanted nothing to do with her. The father of her children allegedly threw her out with the newborn baby. “It has been hard moving from house to house asking for help. Sometimes I run out of energy so I end up sleeping in the pipes or tunnels. I have tried to reason with the father of my children, but he would hear none of it,” alleged a distraught Martha. A community member confirmed seeing Martha and her newborn baby on the streets for a couple of days. The resident explained that she had always thought that they were resting or on their way to town. “I saw them about three times and it was always in the early hours so I thought they were going for an early hospital visit. I then asked her why she left so early and she told me her story. She currently resides with me as we try to find alternatives for her,’’ said the resident.

Condition

Meanwhile, a doctor described the infant’s condition as culocutaneous albinism, which is an autosomal recessive disorder characterised by a lack of pigment in the hair, skin and eyes. The doctor explained that albinism was caused by defective or absent tyrosinase, an enzyme necessary for melanogenesis. “Although rare in the western world, albinism is quite common in sub-Saharan Africa, likely as a result of consanguinity. Albinism has long been associated with stigma and superstitions, such as the belief that body parts from people with albinisim are good-luck charms or possess magical powers,’’ said the doctor. Meanwhile, Stukie Motsa, President of the Stukie Motsa Foundation which caters for people with albinism, said the chances of giving birth to a child with albinism were 25 per cent. Motsa said the counselling that was now provided in hospitals was implemented after they saw the gap that people were not educated enough about the condition. “The counselling services that are now provided  in hospitals were put in place after we saw the rise in stigma against people with albinism. People do not understand that you can give birth to a child with albinism if both parents have the recessive genes,’’ said Motsa. She further said they would provide any help available for the mother and make sure she was safe, together with her newborn. Motsa asked to be provided with the contact details of the mother.

On another note, Women and Law in Southern Africa has condemned the act of the father. Through their representative, the organisation advised the woman to seek help from the Deputy Prime Minister’s (DPM) Office. “We fully condemn domestic violence against women and children. The newborn has been deprived of shelter. We strongly urge people to desist from discriminating against people with albinism, it is wrong and distasteful,’’ said the representative. The father, when contacted, said he did not wish to discuss his family issues with this publication. Similar to Martha’s story, this publication, three months ago, published an article of a woman from Pigg’s Peak who was living with her two children in the bushes. This was after her boyfriend allegedly beat her up and threatened her life.

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