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Lahu Skin Disease


4 July 2011
Kandahar, Afghanistan

An email came from Audra Morgan, an American friend in northern Thailand.  Audra writes:

“The Lahu tribe has a repeating genetic flaw that causes skin with no melanin and no oil ducks.  These kids live very painful, short lives.  They are burned by light instantly and most often die of skin cancer in their early 20s.  One of our kids is suffering with this  He has a kind heart and never complains about his pain.

I asked if I could take a picture of him and he said yes but there was so much pain and embarrassment in his eyes, I didn’t want to aim the camera at his face.

His face looks like his hands.

We took him back to the village to see his familylast year.  They thought he had an evil spirit and basically shut him up in a bamboo hut for 14 years.  He has 8 siblings.  When we walked up to the family hut I saw his youngest sister, about 2 years old.  She was holding her fingers apart.  (This condition hurts when skin touches skin.)  The skin was already peeling off her little eye-lids.

It’s possible we will get her this year.  She stands a chance at a semi-normal life if we can get her early enough.

This is what I love/hate about my job.  It’s the kind of work that rips your heart out and also makes it worth waking up in the morning.”

Michael Yon

Michael Yon is America's most experienced combat correspondent. He has traveled or worked in 82 countries, including various wars and conflicts.

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