Miscellaneous tortures on people living with albinism in Malawi are failing to cease with a recent one seeing a lady living with albinism denied houses for rent as the owners fear of becoming prime suspects should she be attacked.
A 30 year old woman with albinism in Mzuzu is destitute as she cannot find a house to rent in the city’s locations because landlords fear they would be in trouble with authorities as they would be the first suspects should anything bad happen to the woman.
The woman, Constance Msiska, who hails from Group Village Headman Khoza in the area of Traditional Authority Mankhambela in Nkhata Bay District, found herself destitute after the house she was renting in Chiputula collapsed due to the floods that occurred in April, this year.
Since then, the hunt for a house to rent has been a hassle for her life.
She has, for the past three months, been accommodated at Lujeso Community Based Organization [CBO]’s offices in Chiputula Township in the city.
Speaking in an interview with Malawi News Agency (Mana), Msiska, who is a small scale business woman, said since the house she was renting collapsed due to the floods that affected the city, she has struggled to find another house to rent as landlords are not willing to rent their houses to her.
“I found two houses, but when the owners discovered that I am an albino they said no, fearing that if anything [bad] happens to me, they might be the suspects,” she said.
She said this has made life for her and her two children difficult, as they were accommodated at Lujeso Community Based organization.
However, two days ago, she occupied a house in the same location (Chiputula) without the knowledge of the owner because the CBO leadership had asked her to vacate, saying her stay in the office had affected operations.
“I am told yesterday [Tuesday] that the landlord came at my house, but he did not meet me so I don’t know what he will tell me,” she said sounding worried.
When asked why not just go to her home village, she said she can’t go because the houses are sparsely apart in her village which is a security threat to her.
Msiska, a mother of three, whose husband is serving a custodial sentence at Mzuzu Prison, survives on earnings from the small business she plies in the city.
Lujeso CBO Executive Director, Solister Kasambala, said Msiska has been one of the CBO’s beneficiaries because of her condition and when she appeared homeless three months ago, she was given their office to occupy till she finds another house to rent.
“However, for the past three months, we have been helping her to look for a house but could not get one because landlords expressed fear over having her as their tenant.
“They argue that it is risky to have an albino tenant because if anything bad happens, they will be the first to be suspected,” explained Kasambala.
He said the CBO offered her accommodation as a relief intervention, but not a permanent solution.
Kasambala, however, said even though the CBO can no longer house Msiska, if well-wishers could help her acquire land, they [the CBO] could source a donor to build her a decent house.
Of late, the country has experienced abductions and killings of people with albinism, a development Kasambala suspects is the reason why most landlords fear to house a person with albinism.
When contacted, President of Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM), Overton Kondowe, described the development as unfortunate.
He partly blamed the way messages against the killings and abductions of people with albinism are framed, saying it fuels stigma and discrimination against the said minority group.
He gave the example of police awareness campaigns he said had listened to with the message which says ‘anyone who is close to a person with albinism will be the first suspect if anything happens to them’.
Kondowe said such messages fuel stigma and discrimination, no wonder people are afraid to be close to people with albinism.
According to Kondowe, there is need for communication experts to properly craft messages to be disseminated on the rights of people with albinism.
He joked that one of his good friends told him he would stop picking him up, fearing if anything bad happens he would be the first suspect.-Mana