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When Malawians are refugees in their own land

There are times that citizens are forced to leave their homes because their lives are in danger due to factors that are beyond their control. The United Nations calls these people internally displaced persons.

They may be uprooted by civil unrest, full scale wars and natural disasters among other reasons. But Malawi is slowly witnessing a new cadre of internally displaced people. These are people with albinism who are being hunted down like wild animals.

The saddest part of this madness is that it is now targeting innocent children born with albinism. Just yesterday, our sister paper, The Daily Times reported about the plight of Faith Wisiki, a 24-month old baby girl who some men have been plotting to kill for her body parts in Mangochi District. And Faith is not alone in her predicament. Another child, Harrison Mokoshoni, is also on the run as other irresponsible men are after his precious life.

Faith’s mother fled her familiar environment in Mangochi to hide in Lilongwe. Not that Lilongwe is safe for her baby, but to buy time as she strategises on how to save her baby.

Mother luck smiled at little innocent Faith as the Association of People with Albinism (Apam) President, Overstone Kondowe, arranged a safe haven for little Faith. She is now at the Good Samaritan Centre in Blantyre where the centre’s founder, Gardener Bentley, has assured her and Harrison of protection from the marauding adults.

It might look simple now that the two babies are safe but there are a horde of rights that they will be deprived of. These babies have been delinked from their families. They will not have an opportunity to develop that bond with their relatives for no fault of theirs. They will not be able to play in the open field that Malawi provides but will have to be fenced in to ensure their safety. Even their rights to go to school and probably centre of worship will be limited to the four walls of the Good Samaritan centre.

Their freedom has been curtailed not because they have committed any crime but because the society has failed in its sacred duty of providing comfort and protection to some of its members.

Their predicament reminds us of the wisdom of one great son of Africa, Nelson Mandela, who said that the children we see loitering in the streets are a reminder of the unfinished job that the society has delivered.

And talking about failure of the community, I recall another story by The Daily Times last week which talked about 14 primary school pupils who were forced to drop out of school and go into early marriage by elders of their communities in Nkhata Bay District.

The story had it that the teenagers impregnated each other and the social protection committees teamed up with the police and a magistrate and arrested the pupils, arraigned them before a magistrate and fined them or in default incarcerated them.

It is mind boggling how community leaders and the government officers would connive to kill the future of 28 teenagers just because they have fallen pregnant.

I know, just as you do, that Malawi has a policy to encourage teen mothers to go back to school once they deliver. The policy aims to lift the perpetual burden these teenagers can be on the society if they remain uneducated.

But to see that the law enforcers and the magistrate decided to go against this very policy is unbelievable.

These boys and girls are in the age of innocence. They were supposed to be told the ropes as they grow up. In the absence of well-grounded lessons on reproductive health, they were left to chance and they ended up experimenting. With limited reproductive health services, they could not hide the pregnancies, as their fellows do in urban centres, and ended up being discovered by the communities.

The teenagers have now become ostracised by their communities and feel rejected. In the absence of psychosocial support, these teens can do anything to escape the discrimination they are suffering.

The two case studies show that communities are not playing their rightful role of facilitating the growth of its own members.

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