In the face of increased attacks against people living with albinism in Malawi, UN independent expert on human right and albinism has said that the attacks are largely increasing as a result of poverty, witchcraft beliefs and in some way political.
In an interview with Al Jazeera after visiting Malawi, the expert Ikponwosa Ero, said that albinos in Malawi were on the verge of extinction if there are no strict measures to protect them. Her comments were coming hot on the heels of disturbing reports in the dailies of people with albinism being hacked to death and their remains being exhumed.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Ero said that the rise in the killings of people with albinism was mostly a result of poverty and witchcraft practices in Malawi.
“The situation is a potent mix of poverty, witchcraft beliefs and market forces which push people to do things for profit,” Ero said of the sad situation in Malawi. “There is a lack of understanding about people with albinism, not only in developing countries but also in developed nations. So when they bring in this lack of knowledge in the context of poverty, witchcraft beliefs and economic factors, you get a dangerous combination.”
Ero also hinted that in other parts of Africa, the rise in the killing of people with albinism and the subsequent exhumation of their body parts could have been a result of political activities.
“There are other indicators that seem to aggravate the attacks,” Ero said in trying to understand the surge in killings of people with albinism. “Last year, for example, was an election year for many countries in the region and the attacks went up overall. This fed into the suspicion that powerful people are behind these attacks.”
Ero hinted that witch doctors sometimes are believed to advise their clients to get bones of people with albinism if they are to win an election.
She also urged the media to be sensitive in its reporting of the issue as some people were making up their minds to attack albinos basing on what the media is publishing.
“There is a need for the media to be clear, to indicate that it is just an allegation that there is a market for bones of people living with albinism,” she said.
Ero has since urged the government and the civil society to join hands in fighting the crimes against humanity that people living with albinism are made to go through.
Malawi is understood to have 10,000 people living with albinism. They are now living in fear for their lives following myths and misconceptions around their body parts.