The ordeal of Malawian persons with albinism

…Facing the risk of systematic extinction, the Malawi Government steps up its efforts to protect PWA

It is widely known that persons with albinism (PWA) have repeatedly been a target in Malawi and some other parts of Africa, over the false belief that their body parts can bring good luck and wealth. PWA rights campaigners are demanding authorities do more to end the attacks. Relatedly, the United Nations warned in 2016 that Malawi’s estimated 10,000 PWA face “extinction” if they continue to be murdered for their body parts.
In the midst of this ardent political turmoil, the Government stepped up its efforts to ensure the protection and welfare of the Albino community in Malawi.

Contrary to certain popular and (slightly demagogical) barbs -anchored undoubtedly in a pre-electoral competitive spirit- that the Government is lagging behind and has not taken the appropriate initiatives to relieve the suffering of the Albino community, President Peter Mutharika announced that his government has already acquired a tracking device to protect thousands of people with albinism in the Country. He added that the political leadership has an adequate programme in place to put 43 young albinos into boarding schools, in order to protect them; by the same token, people with albinism are also included in the Malata and Cement Subsidy programmes.

Additionally, The Malawian Government appointed a special commission of inquiry in order to conduct a comprehensive search with the aim of identifying the alleged sources of supply and demand for Albino body parts. The aforementioned commission is expected to (a). run a thorough investigation regarding the real motivators that push certain individuals to engage in the murder of albinos, (b). raise awareness on the issue and (c). examine certain delays by the judicial system to conclude cases involving Albino victims.

On Wednesday 6th March 2019, several persons with albinism were abandoned by their demonstration leaders amidst poor weather conditions. The Government promptly intervened and rescued the rights and welfare of Persons with Albinism (PWAs) from the heavy downpour in their failed attempt to march to the State House.

The Government subsequently made the necessary transfer arrangements, so that the PWAs could go to the Malawian Institute of Management (MIM), where decent accommodation was provided for the 150 persons with albinism (and their guardians).

The Government has spent an estimated MK22.9 million for accommodation, meals, transport and pocket money. The PWAs were also provided with full board services that included full breakfast at MK5,500 per person, lunches at MK7,500 per person and dinners at MK7,500, a special contribution of the Sunbird Hotels.

After four nights -from Wednesday 6th March to Sunday morning 10th March- the PWAs were finally sent back to their respective homes in the South, central and Northern Region. The Government also provided transport and police escort, both during the transfer and during the full duration of their sojourn at the MIM.

Each one of the PWAs was also granted MK50,000 pocket money, for any potential need/expenses. Currently, the Malawian Police is providing security at the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) offices 24/07.

Of note, President Mutharika has allocated K31 billion for the implementation of the Nation Action Plan (NAP), aimed at ending the atrocities against persons with albinism, and improving their social warfare for a period of four years. Despite certain targeted, politicised attacks, the Mutharika Administration has shown time and again that it champions human rights for all Malawians, independently of their status, colour or differences.