It seemed as though vitiligo was like a newly discovered health condition in West Africa when Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation (VITSAF) started working on the cause. It’s a condition about which the majority of West Africans (95%) knew nothing, yet with which so many people in the community were living.
Vitiligo is an important skin condition, having a major impact on the Quality of Life (QoL) of patients. It is one of the most psychologically, emotionally and psychosocially devastating chronic skin conditions, which has a major impact on both patients and their families; parents even tend to hide their children with the condition from public gaze. Yet the impact of vitiligo is still underrated and underestimated. The general public seems so ignorant of this condition and the effect of segregation, stigma and rejection on those affected (including family and friends). Often you hear statements like ‘there is nothing medically wrong with you’ or ‘change in appearance does not kill.’ Still, I know the major impact of the disease: how productive can a depressed man who is emotionally and psychologically damaged be?
Africa in general is a very interesting continent: anything we don’t have knowledge of becomes a curse, nemesis or the result of some magical powers. These beliefs have really cost people so much: a condition like vitiligo usually first receives the attention of miracle focused Pastors, then some Native Doctors and, as it progresses, the hospital is finally remembered and consulted. Even then, help and treatment can be difficult to come by.
VITSAF came about from my own experiences – a lady living with vitiligo and the journey to find help for others affected by this disease – as there seemed to be no help anywhere. It was formed to educate the general public in order to lessen the segregation and stigmatization that accompanies vitiligo. VITSAF’s one major goal is to achieve extensive vitiligo awareness and enlightenment to positively influence the perception of the general public, medical and social community in West Africa, and Africa, and ultimately to provide a Specialist Skin Center in Nigeria for West Africa. We also offer much needed support and help to those affected by vitiligo by making vitiligo lifestyle products and programs available.
VITSAF’s greatest wish is to achieve a Vitiligo World Day for Awareness and Enlightenment to really bring the cause to the forefront of people’s minds.