Thandeka Moyo- Ndlovu, Health Reporter
HUGE flies buzz all over his sore-infested face and over his head which is partially covered to protect him from direct sunlight.
Mr Mhlekwa Nyathi from Sikhokhobo Village in Nkayi is struggling to treat pustulating pus sores which have over time reduced him to a pariah in his village.
Born with albinism together with his brother and two sisters who are now late, Mr Nyathi cannot afford to provide food for his family or take his nieces to school due to financial challenges.
His family is among hundreds of people living with albinism who have a 1 000-fold risk of developing skin cancer, compared to the general African population. The lack of melanin in people living with albinism increases their risk of developing skin cancer which must be prevented by using skin care products.
As a result, many die from skin cancer before the age of 40 in Zimbabwe.
Experts say children and adults with albinism in sub-Saharan Africa face multiple challenges which restrict their daily lives. These include visual impairments and extreme vulnerability to skin infections and cancer because they lack melanin in their skin.
Mr Mhlekwa’s greatest fear is dying without accessing health care as none of his family members can afford services to treat his sores which often attract swarms of flies.
“I have challenges, we are in need of food and money to go to the hospital so that we can live a normal life without these buzzing flies all over our bodies. I do not have money to go to the hospital to seek medical attention and I fear that I may die due to this skin disease because it gets worse with each passing day,” said Mr Nyathi.
“I have a brother whom I stay with who also has skin cancer and sadly both of us cannot do anything about the situation. We used to be four in our family but two of my sisters died leaving behind children who are also living with albinism,” he added.
According to Mr Nyathi, the skin disease affects the family physically and they cannot do menial jobs to put food on the table.
“We can’t even go to the fields like normal villagers and we often go for days without any food. We will gladly accept any form of help to help us access medical attention, food and some money so that our nieces can at least attend school like other normal children,” said Mr Nyathi.
The director of Trinity Projects, a local NGO Mr Phumulani Mpofu is coordinating efforts to help the family.
The family does not have a phone and can only be reached through the area’s councillor Jameson Mnethwa on 0718865502.