A CAVERSHAM based charity is urging people to buy suncream as a gift for people with albinism in Sierra Leone, this Christmas.

Medical Assistance Sierra Leone (MASL) is working with the Sierra Leone Association of People with Albinism to raise awareness about this complex condition and support people with it.

Those with albinism are at extreme risk of skin cancer, with an estimated 80 per cent of people dying early from this condition in Sierra Leone.

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The charity, which has been supporting health care in the country since 2004, has helped people with albinism access surgery for skin cancer and provided prescribed cream which removes pre-cancerous cells.

The charity is asking people to buy a small amount of SPF 50 sun cream as a gift and arrange for it to be sent to their registered office: MASL, 31 Grove Hill, Reading RG4 8PN.

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Sarah Snow, trustee and founder of Medical Assistance Sierra Leone, said: "In October we distributed hundreds of sun cream and sunglasses packages to people with albinism in Sierra Leone, after the Association promoted the distribution event on the radio and in the press.

"We need to make sun cream constantly available to the Sierra Leone Association of Persons With Albinism and especially for children as part of a welcome package for parents.

"Taking care of skin early on will make a difference to long term survival rates."

The charity suggests buying Aldi's SPF 50 200ml sun cream as it has received great consumer reviews for its low price.

For those unable to do so, the charity also welcomes donations via their website and would be grateful for donations of new or second hand SPF 50 protection clothing for all ages.

Preventing sun damage from occurring is very difficult in Sierra Leone.

Protective sun cream is expensive and out of reach for most people (costing between £10-£15 a bottle - the average primary school salary is £40).

Poverty is a determining factor on how much flexibility people have to avoid the sun.

In the rural areas most people are subsistence farmers and their days are spent outside.

Mohamed Osman Kamara, coordinator of Sierra Leone Association of Persons With Albinism, said: "In the last few months alone we have lost two members of the Association in their thirties to skin cancer.

"A simple thing like access to regular sun cream can save the lives of people in our community.

"There is little to no oncology capacity in Sierra Leone and sun cream and protective clothing is the way for us to keep safe from the harmful effects of the sun."

MASL has shipped two consignments of quality SPF 50 sun cream to Sierra Leone this year and needs to maintain this supply as a matter of urgency.

The charity will arrange shipment to Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leone Association of Persons With Albinism will distribute to members.