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Move to curb attacks on People with Albinism

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HOPEFUL—Zacharia

By Tiyese Monjeza:

When, on March 28 2017, United Nations (UN) Women called for the protection of rights of People with Albinism (PWA), PWA were living in fear in the country.

Cases of attacks, sometimes culminating in death, were on the rise, such that calls for the government to start constructing safe houses for the people grew.

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At that time, UN Women Programme Specialist for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls Habib Osman— who is now with the Malawi Human Rights Commission— led the initiative to donate sun glasses to PWA.

Other well-wishers, notably People’s Federation for National Peace and Development Executive Director Edward Chaka, called on the State and non- State actors to also provide PWA with gadgets that would help them press a button and access help when in danger of attack.

In fact, a good number of gadgets were distributed to PWA in the country.

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The equipment was designed in such a way that, once pressed, a button on the gadget would send a message to police, community policing members and other identified citizens, who would then come to the rescue of the individual whose life is threatened.

PWA in districts such as Machinga, Nsanje, Chitipa and Kasungu benefitted from the initiative.

The initiative also sought to support the prosecution of cases related to attacks on PWA and build the capacity of players in the justice service delivery system.

Not just that, the UN assisted the Malawi Government come up with a handbook, thanks to the National Response Plan, a multi-sectoral programme which was being implemented in partnership with Association of Persons with Albinism (Apam) and the Malawi Police Service (MPS).

Now, while some cases related to attacks on people with albinism are on-going in the country’s courts, MPS continues on the path of sensitising people to the importance of respecting the rights of people with albinism.

For instance, MPS Deputy Inspector General Merlyn Yolamu seems uninterested in sitting on her laurels until law enforcers address the problem of violation of PWA’s rights in the country.

She is like a mother figure out to protect her children from harm.

Recently, Yolamu said law enforcers were making progress in curbing cases of attacks on PWA in the country.

Speaking at Liwonde, Machinga District, during a sensitisation meeting aimed at safeguarding the rights of PWA, she indicated that sensitising people to the dangers of violating rights of PWA would help the citizenry become responsible and start watching over their brothers and sisters with albinism.

“Despite making progress, the police will continue to conduct awareness campaigns and enforcing measures meant to protect the rights of people with albinism.

“We want to reach a stage where we completely bring an end to the vice in the country,” Yolamu said.

She also lamented the increase in cases of mob justice, where community members take the law in their hands.

Apam National Coordinator Maynard Zachariah said, apart from sensitising people to the importance of safeguarding the rights of others, there was a need to construct houses for PWA.

“This year, we expect 28 houses for people with albinism to be completed and we anticipate improved security, unlike in the past when most of our members were staying in houses which exposed them to danger,” Zacharia said.

Machinga District Commissioner, Rosemary Nawasha, indicated that Machinga District officials were doing their best to create a conducive environment for PWA.

Information from Malawi Police Service Community and Rural Policing Department indicates that the country recorded three brutal deaths of people with albinism in 2021.

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