Criminals frustrate protection of albinos in Malawi

Albinos being hunted in Malawi, photo supplied

Albinos being hunted in Malawi. File photo supplied

from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) NO sooner than the two-year-old boy was buried after suffering malaria, than his grave was tampered with by unknown suspects, likely to be criminals behind the rampant abuse, killings and desecration of graves of people with albinism in Malawi.

The incident in the southern town of Mulanje is the first such documented violation of the year in a country that is among the most hostile to these vulnerable members of the community.

The unnamed boy had been buried in December.

According to police, members of the community coming from the fields recently noticed the grave was tampered with.

Inspector Gresham Ngwira, the Mulanje police spokesman, said while the grave was defiled, the coffin was tampered with as the grave had been reinforced with concrete.

At the time of publication, no arrests had been made.

“Investigations are underway to trace and arrest the suspects,” Ngwira said.

The incident in Mulanje is a demonstration how criminals are eager to throw spanners into the progress made by the government of President Peter Mutharika in halting crimes against people living with albinism.

The year had started on good note with the government enhancing its protection of people with albinism by distributing personal security alarm devices to people living with the condition.

A wearer can activate the alarm system if they feel in danger.

The sound that can be heard from 100 metres away is anticipated to alert other members of the public to possible attacks.

Mary Navicha, Minister for Gender and Disability, said the government was creating a safe environment for the thousands living with albinism in the Southern African country.

“That is why we are distributing security gadgets for them to be protected and for them to be safe in their communities,” she said.

According to the 2018 Malawi Population and Housing Census (MPHC) report, there are 134 000 people with albinism in a country of over 18 million people.

The group aged four years and under is the worst impacted by the congenital disorder characterised by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes.

Last year, Mutharika appointed a commission of inquiry to probe the attacks of people with albinism.

Human rights groups have reported 150 cases of albino killings, attacks and other human rights violations reported in Malawi over the past five years.

Harmful beliefs about people with albinism are at the root of the violence directed against them.

There are false beliefs that their body parts bring luck or that albinism is a curse to the family.

Those who attack people with albinism range from criminals, influential members of the community and family members.

Last year, Mutharika tasked Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development to prioritise people with albinism in the government’s Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme.

Government expects to build 600 houses over the next five years under the scheme.

Simon Vuwa Kaunda, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, said the process to select suppliers of building material had been put to tender.

“Preparations for the project are at an advanced stage,” he said.

– CAJ News

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