Exposed in disasters


By Stevie Chauluka:

ESTHER—It is not a safe place for me

It was raining heavily and the grass-thatched mud house she had been staying in with her grandmother collapsed on one side, exposing them to safety problems.

This is the story of Eustina Ndaona, an 18-year-old girl with albinism in Siyankhuni Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Nkhulambe, in Phalombe District.


She is one of the people with albinism that suffered the devastating effects of Tropical Cyclone Desmond and Cyclone Idai that hit Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

“The house collapsed and we lost whatever we had. Now we are starving; we have no food and house and it seems there is no one to help us. However, my biggest fear now is about my safety as we are being hunted for our body parts,” Ndaona said.

T/A Nkhulambe Civil Protection Committee Chairperson, James Maijeri, recounts that 2,270 people were affected by the heavy rains in the area. At least 892 of the affected are women that include Ndaona and her grandmother.


The damage that cost Eustina’s house comes at a time people with albinism require additional security, one of them being a decent house.

“I lost my parents and I live with my grandmother who is in her 70s. She neither protect me in any situation does she fend for me. I am the one who runs the home making sure that we have food, but I don’t easily get it,” she explained.

Eustina was once a student at Likanani Primary School in the district but opted to drop out when she was in Standard Seven to concentrate on farm work.

“Poverty forced me out of school; we live without food for days at home and there is no way I can go to school. That is why I dropped out of school,” she said.

Ellen Kawiya is Eustina’s sister and lives in the same village with her but in a different house. She only hopes that, one day, sister will return school.

“I know her future is in education. If she is educated she will one day be able to recover quickly from disasters like the heavy rains that damaged their house. We are all poor such that we cannot afford sunscreen lotion for her,” said Kawiya.

Police officers from the district visit Eustina often to ensure she is safe. She admits that, in the meantime, she feels, at least, safe.

Eustina is one of the 500 people that received assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which provided the disaster victims with blankets, cooking utensils, solar lamps, buckets and tents, among others.

In Nsanje District, 23-year-old Esther Sikebe of Wanyali Village, T/A Mbenje, is another woman with albinism who is also a victim of Cyclone Idai.

Her house was also damaged by the storm.

“I am now seeking refuge at my relatives’ house. I was living at Bangula Admarc Camp after my house collapsed. I later realised that it is not a safe place for me,” the mother-of-two said.

Esther was spotted at the camp where she was hoping to get food from the government and organisations that are providing relief aid to disaster victims.

The camp has 876 Malawian households and 335 Mozambican households, with a total human population of 5,356. Sixty-five people at the camp have a disability, of which 29 are males while 36 are females according to the camp’s chairperson Isaac Falakeza.

Esther insists that the camps are not safe for persons with albinism who are being targeted by criminals for their body tissues.

“Much as we need food now to replace what we lost in the fields, security should also be a priority,” Esther’s brother, Lyton, said.

Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi documents that 10 of its members were affected in Chikwawa.

UNHCR, through Senior Emergency Coordinator, Brigitte Mukanga, said their distribution exercise is targeting more vulnerable groups including families of people with albinism.

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