Albinos, indigenous peoples, and people living with disabilities facing the effects of climate change

Albinos, indigenous peoples, and people living with disabilities facing the effects of climate change

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Albinos, indigenous peoples and people living with disabilities facing the effects of climate change

Young albinos, indigenous peoples, people living with disabilities and some young students from the University of Goma UNIGOM celebrated on June 7 the day of environment in the city of Goma. This city located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has long been affected by eruptions from the Nyiragongo Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. 

During the celebration of the day of the environment, these young people planted some trees in the Concession of the UNIGOM Campus. An action that falls within the framework of strengthening the inclusion of all layers of the community in the protection of the environment.

Climate change is having its effects everywhere on planet earth. Between the increase in temperature and the loss of biodiversity, the feelings of the communities vary according to this or that other group of people.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC, voices are rising to strengthen the inclusion of albinos, indigenous peoples and people living with disabilities in the climate cause.

Risk of skin cancer in people with

albinism Léa Ziraje, an albino woman in Goma in eastern DRC, is the coordinator for albinos in North Kivu province. During an interview in June 2022, she indicated that people with albinism are suffering hard with the high heat that is being recorded these days.

“We are much more victims. There are places where trees are cleared. For us albinos, we suffer too much with the sun which leads us to find even skin diseases such as skin cancer.

It is very important to include us in the actions to fight against global warming given its effects that weigh on us”, pleads Léa Ziraje during the celebration of the day of Biodiversity in the city of Goma.

According to Aicha Diakité, President of the Association Solidarité pour l’Insertion des Albinos du Mali SIAM in acronym, the skin cancer care program for people with albinism is of paramount importance.

Quoted in an article by the Pierre Fabre Foundation, Aicha Diakité indicates that the occurrence of skin cancer is the major health risk faced by people with albinism.

“Tumors generally occur in young subjects (25-35 years old) who do not have access to medical care and are forced to expose themselves to the sun in search of daily bread,” she says.

Albinos and social inclusion

World Bank Disability Advisor Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo explained in 2015 that people with albinism should not be excluded simply because they do not look like others. They are actors of change who have a lot to contribute to society.

Albinos constitute a minority in the world, ie 1 case out of 15,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa according to estimates by the World Health Organization WHO. 

Affected by many forms of discrimination: rejection, social exclusion, erroneous myths, etc., people with albinism benefit from a world day on June 13 for awareness of albinism. A day to ensure the prevention of attacks and discrimination against people with albinism. 

Indigenous peoples and pygmies in the face of global warming

The Development Center for the Self-Promotion of Pygmies and Disadvantaged Indigenous Peoples FDAPID in acronym, an organization for the defense of human rights in the DRC pleads for the amplification of the inclusion of indigenous peoples in questions of fight against global warming.

Through its GLA “Green Livehood Alliance” project, the FDAPID and its partners are implementing awareness-raising actions on global warming in synergy with people with reduced mobility, albinos, pygmies and young people.

On the sidelines of the celebration of Environment Day on June 7 in the city of Goma, Ms. Angélique Mayenga, Gender and Projects Officer in the GLA program within the FDAPID, said that in most cases, pygmies , people living with disabilities and other people from marginalized groups are not sufficiently consulted at major meetings on global warming or to protect the environment.

“We are already seeing the impact of global warming. We are already experiencing its consequences. For example, with the agricultural calendar, before, it was possible to know when the dry season will be and when the rain was expected.

Lately, there has been a disruption in the agricultural calendar. If it is already difficult for us, we who have the possibility of finding employment in the city, it is more complicated for these indigenous peoples who hope to earn a living through rural activities.

Their economy is affected and their social life disrupted,” warns Ms. Angélique Mayenga. She believes that raising the awareness of groups of indigenous people on the protection of the environment not only ensures their social inclusion but also prevents the damage that the destruction of biodiversity causes to their natural habitat. 

Six years ago, Laurence Caramel, special correspondent for Le Monde newspaper in New York, reported that indigenous peoples and local communities are precious allies to climatologists. In his article entitled In the Congo Basin, the pygmies, forgotten guardians of the climate, it is noted that the protection of forests also passes through the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities.

On June 14, 2022, the Joint Commission (National Assembly-Senate) in the DRC adopted the law protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous Pygmies, known as the “Pygmy Law”.

This law will be transmitted to the Head of State Félix Tshisekedi for promulgation, reports DESK NATURE. The “Pygmy Law” will allow the Congolese State to ensure the integration of indigenous Pygmy peoples into national life, the securing of their ancestral lands and territories in the form of large natural and ecological reserves in order to protect their identity and of traditional life, notes Auguy Mudiayi of DESK NATURE. 

People with reduced mobility and the fight against global warming

In Goma, capital of the Province of North Kivu, in the east of the DRC, there is a group of musicians living with disabilities. The Power Boys group helps to sell a positive image of people with reduced mobility.

Through music, Mr Riziki Tawamo, by his artist name RIZO-T, conveys messages of environmental conservation. Passionate about writing and the microphone, his texts often vibrate in very engaging rhythms of rap and Hip-hop.

He testifies to having started his musical career since his childhood when he was still 10 years old. To date, RIZO-T, 29 years old, continues his university studies in Law at the University of Goma.

“As a musician living with a disability, I’m really interested in the environment day. I told myself that I must reserve a song to raise awareness in the community to fight against global warming. 

The fight against global warming is everyone’s business. The person living with a disability must not be excluded in this dynamic. Everyone has the right to get involved according to their personality, their role played in the community and without any exclusion based on physical appearance or a particular disability,” says musician artist RIZO-T.

In its Tweet of May 30, 2022, the organization Congo Handicap indicates that taking into account the needs of people with disabilities is essential to guarantee effective climate action and prevent climate change from exacerbating inequalities.  

For Eliode Bakole, a young volunteer with the YALI Young African Leaders Initiative in North Kivu, young people around the world are all impacted by the effects of climate change. It calls for global and inclusive action from all layers of youth: young indigenous people, young albinos, those living with disabilities.

“I learned new things today. I worked in small discussion groups with young albinos, pygmies, people living with disabilities. I appreciated the symbiosis that reigned among us. Celebrating the day of the environment with other groups of young people allowed me to build new relationships”, testifies Josline Kalemo, student in the Faculty of Agronomy at the University of Goma during the celebration of the day of the environment. environment in Goma.

On the sidelines of the celebration of Environment Day, the EDA Consortium “Enable the Disable Action” and FDAPID “Development Center for the Self-Promotion of Pygmies and Disadvantaged Indigenous Peoples” in collaboration with the National Forestry Fund FFN, the University de Goma UNIGOM and YALI RDC organized an awareness campaign in the university environment for students on the impacts of climate change.

This awareness has shown the importance and commitment of all stakeholders through inclusive and coordinated actions for a cleaner, more inclusive, greener and sustainable way of life in harmony with nature.

It should be noted that it is since December 2020 that Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi has planted a symbolic baobab tree to launch the school project “1 Billion trees by 2023”. A project which, according to the presidential press, demonstrates the determination of the power in place in the fight for the climate.

Nowadays, it is important to ensure climate justice and that the voice of minorities affected by climate shocks is heard. 

Daniel Makasi
Journalist in Goma/DRC 

Photo: Planting of some trees in the Campus concession of the University of Goma UNIGOM in the Lac Vert district in Goma.

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