The Salif Keita Global Foundation for the fair treatment of persons with albinism (SKGF) is a non-profit US organization based in Washington DC founded in 2005 by Malian musician, Salif Keita. The mission of the organization is to create media awareness and educational campaigns geared toward providing the social integration and security of persons with albinism in Africa.
The population of Mali was estimated at 18 million in 2017. There are estimated to be 7,000-10,000 persons with albinism in Mali.
Persons with disabilities in Mali
There is no specific law protecting people with disabilities in Mali. The Ministry of Social Affairs is charged with protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. People with albinism are not recognized legally in the category of those with disabilities and therefore do not receive any subsidies or legal protective status.
The average temperature in Mali is 27.6 degrees Celsius. The highest temperature is 39 degree Celsius in April. Mali has an average of 7.7 hours of sunlight per day.
Education and Belief system
Mali has a high rate of illiteracy with UNICEF estimating the rate at 56%. The main religion is Islam and there is a general belief in the occult (witchdoctors). The high rate of illiteracy coupled with the belief in the occult has fueled a growing propaganda of persons with albinism being isolated from society and subject to human sacrifices due to the belief that there condition is a curse from God and that their body parts have magical powers.
- Developing educational media campaigns and informational booklets geared at raising awareness about the scientific causes of albinism for both people with albinism, their families and the population at large including a Albino Awareness Day.
- Increasing the visibility and representation of albino groups in the democratic process.
- Providing regular healthcare including sunscreens, vision care and sunglasses.
- Creating an outreach program and population census to determine total albino births and population statistics.
- Building a safe-house facility that provides a secure environment for people with albinism to meet as well as special receive training and general information for them and their families to learn more about their condition.
- Building sustainable vocational training programs for long-term employment.
- Reducing social stigmas and isolation, including persecution and violent attacks.
- Developing an adoption program in order to reduce infanticide.
The goal is to develop a comprehensive media campaign (television, radio, and print) in both the national and the local dialect to explain the actual causes of albinism, the physical traits of the condition and provide education based on removing the cultural and discriminatory belief system affecting albinos.
For example, even people with albino children do not know the exact cause of the condition, and in Mali, it is a wide spread belief that one must spit when they see an albino to avoid having an albino child themselves.
Informational pamphlets and materials
Written materials with illustrations explaining the condition, traits, and care for persons with albinism will be developed to teach both those with the condition, their families and others more about the condition and its health concerns.
Democratic Process and advocacy
Persons with albinism are handicapped due to their low vision and nystagmus, they are actually considered legally blind in most developed nations, and therefore received subsidies received by the blind. In most developing nations in Africa, including Mali, they are not recognized as persons with disabilities, nor as a vulnerable group. The project will work with persons with albinism to learn more about their legal rights and integrate them in the democratic process in order to advocate for their human rights. The project will also partner with Malian Coalition for Education in Democracy (C.O.M.E.D.) to train persons with albinism in the 8 regions of Mali to the importance of joining the democratic process in order to defend their basis human rights.
Persons with albinism have an inherited condition which is characterized by a lack melanin. Melanin is the pigment that normally gives color to the skin, hair and eyes. Melanin is also acts as an natural sunscreen. Therefore, persons with albinism in Africa are susceptible to skin cancers and have an average lifespan of 30 years old in Africa. It is important to provide them with free sunscreens, eyeglasses and protective clothing in order to reduce the risk of skin cancers, especially in Sub-Saharan African and Mali where temperatures can reach 39 degrees Celcius and the average day has almost eight hours of sunlight.
Outreach and Population Census
The estimated ratio of babies born Albino in Africa is as high as 1 in 1,000 babies. In Mali, there are thought to be 30,000 persons living with albinism. This number is only an estimate and the foundation has registered almost 2,000 people with the condition. The project would entail a population census to determine the exact number of new births and living population with the condition in partnership with COMED .
The goal of the project would be build a center for albinism in Mali. This center would provide a place for gathering, training, therapy, healthcare for persons with albinism and their families. Currently, Salif Keita has acquired land to build such a facility courtesy of the Malian government. We are searching for funding for this project.
Persons with albinism have two challenges to finding long-term employment and education. First, in an agriculturally based economy, they cannot work their land because of the risk of exposure to the harmful sun rays. Second, in a country with basic educational facilities, their low-vision eyesight requires special equipment in classrooms in order for them to follow courses with other students. Although, persons with albinism are usually considered legally blind, they are not blind. They have low vision that can be corrected with specialized glasses.
Persons with albinism in Mali and all of sub-Saharan Africa look noticeably different. Due to the stigma, discrimination and risk of violence against them puts them in need of special security and recognition as an endangered and vulnerable group. The project would aim at providing a legal status recognizing their need for protection as well as providing a safe haven in case of threats or fears of attack.
For example, many Albinos go into hiding during elections for fear of being murdered for occult rituals and human sacrifices producing potions and that promise candidate’s victory at the polls.
There exist many regions in Africa and Mali where no Albinos are believed to exist. In the north of Mali, there are no or very few Albinos reported to be living. It is known that infanticide in a high risk for those born with the condition, and because there is no strict birth registration in most countries in Africa, nor in Mali, we suspect that regions with no Albinos might have high rates of infanticide. In addition, to having a population census, a program that provides a safe house for those who cannot care for an albino baby or child is essential.
PROJECT BUDGET (upon request)
4 years (renewable)
(To be determined)