Elizabeth Wangui Njee, a TNA party Nyeri county representative for the physically challenged distributes sunscreen lotion to people living with vitiligo and albinism
Milliam Murigi @millymur1
Elizabeth Wangui Njee was 15 years old when a friend noticed a white spot on one of her eyelids. At that time they both thought it was chalk, but after several attempts to clean her face, the spot did not disappear. She went to the school nurse to seek assistance.
The nurse referred her to a doctor and after several trips to doctors and skin specialists they confirmed that she had a skin condition known as vitiligo. She was given a white cream to apply and the spot disappeared after application. When she turned 19 years, the spots reappeared, but this time on her fingertips and toes.
This is when she realised that something was not right. Being self-conscious of her condition, she spent days trying to get a cure for it. She also went to the extent of trying to trace any relative who might have the same condition. She found out that she was the only one with that condition.
She started research to know more about this condition, which was not only new to her, but also to her family. “With a belief that the condition is genetical my parents were worried because there is no one in our family with such a condition. They started researching on how the condition can be contained,” she said.
During research they came across a remedy of using carrot and tomato juice, which really worked wonders for her. The disease didn’t spread at all. She even started going for phototherapy, vitiligo light treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital.
In 2013 she was the official photographer for TNA party Nyeri county and coincidentally she had also moved out of her parent’s house. Because of her tight schedule she could not get enough time to make the juice and later she stopped going for phototherapy because the treatment was killing her white blood cells.
“This is when the disease spread to the whole body and by then I was used to it. I just accepted myself and promised to do something to help people with the same condition,” she says.
After campaigns she was nominated by the TNA party to represent people with disability in Nyeri County and this gave her the best platform to fight for the rights of people with this condition.
“I believe Vitiligo is a condition and not a disease and I would like to see so many people with this condition being given an opportunity to proof that they can perform whether in public or private sector,” she adds. She also started a social media initiative known as vitiligo is beautiful to create awareness on what vitiligo is and the various activities being conducted.
Apart from the initiative she also started pushing for sunscreen lotion and lip balm to be provided to the victims for free at county level. “Currently I get the products from Thika level five hospital for free.
Once I get them I distribute to people with both vitiligo and albinism because there are some areas with albinism and no vitiligo victims and vice versa,” she says. And why should someone use sunscreen and lip balm?
She says that because vitiligious skin is particularly susceptible to sunburn, the products absorb or reflect ultraviolet (UV) radiation before it reaches the skin. However, many sunscreens offer better protection against short wavelength than longer wavelength UV radiation.
“Currently I have distributed sunscreen and lip balm to more than 3,000 people who have come out and faced the world. I would urge people with this condition, who we have not yet reached to ensure that they get the products from level four and five hospitals countrywide,” she said.