Original Research

Malawian mothers’ experiences of raising children living with albinism: A qualitative descriptive study

Naomi Likumbo, Tania de Villiers, Una Kyriacos
African Journal of Disability | Vol 10 | a693 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v10i0.693 | © 2021 Naomi Likumbo, Tania de Villiers, Una Kyriacos | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 November 2019 | Published: 20 April 2021

About the author(s)

Naomi Likumbo, Division of Nursing and Midwifery, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Tania de Villiers, Division of Nursing and Midwifery, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Una Kyriacos, Division of Nursing and Midwifery, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Albinism in humans is characterised by a reduced amount of pigment (melanin) present in the skin, hair follicles and the eye; approximately 7000–10 000 Malawians of all ages are affected. Children with these features face extreme forms of human rights abuses, even death.

Objectives: This study aims to describe Malawian mothers’ experiences, perceptions and understanding of raising children with albinism (CWA).

Methods: The study was conducted in 2018 using a qualitative descriptive design, with purposive sampling and voluntary participation. Mothers, 18 years and older, who had given birth to a CWA and who attended the dermatology clinic of a local public hospital participated. An interview guide used during standardised, open-ended interviews was translated from English to Chichewa using forward and backward translation. Interviews were conducted in Chichewa, audio recorded, transcribed and forward and back translated from English to Chichewa. Thematic data analysis was employed.

Results: The mean age of participants (N = 10) was 33 years; two had albinism. Emerging themes confirmed the existence of myths and stereotypes regarding albinism but from the mothers’ perspectives. Mothers reported: (1) some experiences of emotional pain, initially, but also love and acceptance of their children, despite adverse reactions of others; (2) their experiences of stigmatisation of their children and themselves, and of intended harm to their children, and (3) their own lack of knowledge and understanding of albinism.

Conclusion: In our limited study, mothers’ self-reported experiences of raising CWA in Malawi highlight the need for educational programmes on albinism at national level, particularly for families with a CWA, health professionals and educators.


Keywords

albinism; albinism in Africa; albinism in Malawi; albinism killings; children living with albinism; maternal experiences; oculocutaneous albinism; stigma and albinism

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