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New hope for albinos?

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CHIBWANA—We want to work together

For Tafwauli Ngoma, a 93-year-old woman with albinism, living beyond 2020 is testimony of God’s love for her.

She survived by a whisker in February 2020 when a gang of youthful criminals descended on her as she lit a fire outside her kutcha house in Kapopo Mhlanga Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) M’mbelwa, in Mzimba District.

A kutcha house is made of wood, mud, straw and dry leaves or grass and does not provide maximum security and protection to occupants.

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Ngoma’s attackers, who include Moffat Manda, Eliyah Mwandira and Fumu Nyirenda, might have taken advantage of security lapse at her place to chop off her toe on February 15 2020.

The nonagenarian was left in a pool of blood and excruciating pain.

Recently, a 12-year-old girl with albinism narrowly survived abduction by two unknown assailants who broke into her home in Machinga on February 3 this year.

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Amnesty International and the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) said the resurgence of killings and abductions of persons with albinism in Malawi shows a dangerous trend.

“The latest attempted abduction of a 12-year-old girl and the missing body of Saidi Dyton are a chilling reminder of how life has become dangerous for persons with albinism in Malawi,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

He added: “Malawian authorities must swiftly move to bring suspected perpetrators of these latest crimes to justice in fair trials.”

On his part, Apam Executive Director Menard Zacharia said the government has an obligation, under domestic and international human rights law, to protect people with albinism and ensure justice to the victims of the attacks.

To address the problem, the government, through the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, developed the National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism.

The plan provides a comprehensive, multi-sectoral and sustained blueprint for ending violence against men, women, boys and girls with albinism and ensuring that they equally enjoy their rights and are fully included in the development of the society.

However, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has decried the sluggish progress Malawi is making towards respecting and protecting health rights for persons with albinism.

Speaking during a national health advocacy and lobbying meeting on the rights to health for persons with albinism in Lilongwe, CCJP National Coordinator Boniface Chibwana said the country still has an uphill task in achieving equal rights for all.

CCJP is implementing ‘Safeguarding the Rights of Persons with Albinism in Malawi focusing on the Rights to Access to Justice and Healthcare’ project with funding from the European Union (EU) through the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund.

The project is being implemented in Machinga and Zomba districts.

Chibwana lamented that persons with albinism have, for some time, failed to access healthcare services like any other citizen because most people who are supposed to provide such services are not even aware of the rights that these people’s rights.

“We want relevant stakeholders to work together with duty-bearers such as the Ministry of Health, local government and other stakeholders in the health governance sector to put some pressure so that such services are provided to these people,” he said.

Joel Chisite, who is Assistant Director of Clinical Services in the Ministry of Health responsible for Medical Rehabilitation, said the ministry will abide by the action plan in the implementation of its programmes to ensure transparency and accountability.

Among the major highlights in the action plan of 2018-2022, which is being used, is that the government should support the local production of sunscreen lotion in Malawi.

“Soon there would be a production plant that will be producing sunscreen lotion that will be readily available to people with albinism in Malawi,” Chisite said.

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