Dr. Gioconda Gaudiano
Republic of Panama
This initiative provided real, on-the-ground assistance to the 40,000 indigenous people from the Archipelago of San Blas, a region with the highest incidence of albinism in the world. Albinism in humans is a skin condition characterized by the partial or complete absence of color in the skin, hair and eyes. Therefore, albinos are very sensitive to UV light and sun exposure can result in severe skin problems, such as skin cancer. Those affected by the condition usually face discrimination and feel socially excluded.
The aim of this initiative was achieved via mobile surgery clinics that were able to travel to the Archipelago of San Blas – a community that often shuns medical treatment and avoids protective measures against skin cancer. The project team offered free consultations and subsequent medical treatment, as well as education and means of sun protection. Another important aspect was an anti-bullying campaign in schools.
Through hard work and consultations with the indigenous chiefs to gain support for the program, since the project’s start in 2009 there has been a visible change in behavior of the people from a community that is guided by ancient and rigid rules and beliefs. Local people learned to trust the initiative and even began reaching out for help; such as being treated in their own homes and asking for assistance in the case of bullying of an albino child.
The prize money was planned to be used to develop an ongoing communication campaign as well as other measures, to continue to purchase sun protection measures, and hire a doctor specialized in albinism to conduct workshops.
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