Malawi has been experiencing a resurgence of attacks against PWAs—who have a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes.
PWAs are targeted because of beliefs that their body parts can increase wealth, make businesses prosper or facilitate employment.
Since November 2014, the number of reported crimes on PWAs in Malawi has risen to 152 cases, including 25 murders and more than 10 people missing, according to Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM)
And out of the K1 billion, K600 million has been allocated to construct houses for persons with albinism, while the remaining K400 million has been allocated for the implementation of the action plan for the protection of persons with albinism.
In the budget, Mwanamvekha also announced a tax waiver on protective skin lotion for the same community.
Reacting to the development, Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) National Coordinator Overstone Kondowe described it as “good news”.
In February this year, the United Nations (UN) added its voice in urging Government in Malawi to take immediate action to protect people with albinism.
Government ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which promotes the right to life, dignity, personal security and safety for all citizens.
Malawi has an estimated 134,000 PWAs, but since 2014, up to 150 cases, 25 murders and scores of abductions have been recorded by APAM, leading to a United Nations expert to warn in 2016 that witchcraft threatens the PWAs with extinction and the situation “constitutes an emergency and a crisis disturbing in its proportions.”
As part of the plan, President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika this year announced some of the following key directives and interventions:
Government will set up a commission of inquiry and procure 3,000 personal security alarms to be distributed to PWAs to alert police when faced with abduction threats.
. A K5 million reward awaits anyone who can provide police with information leading to the arrest and prosecution of people who abduct or kill PWAs.
Malawi will engage foreign investigators to probe the whereabouts of the body markets for PWAs.
Mutharika often condemns attacks on PWAs, saying: “It’s an evil act and inhumane, it reduces the dignity of our fellow citizens with albinism. I repeat…stop politicising albino killings and let us join hands to protect them,” the President said.
“It is a tragedy that has befallen us that needs collective solutions. We will not be able to solve the current problems by finger pointing.”
PACPWA chairperson Francis Masambuka recently asked the President to set up an inquiry, roll out the national action plan, speed up court trials of suspects and declare the killings and abductions a “national crisis”.
Ikponwosa Ero, the United Nations independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by PWAs, warned in 2016 that PWAs in Malawi are “an endangered group facing a risk of systematic extinction over time if nothing is done to stem the tide.”
Ero, a Nigerian national and herself a PWA, said the “frequent involvement of close relatives in cases of attacks is highly disturbing and persons with albinism are unable to trust even those who are supposed to care and protect them.”
She added: “Even in death, they do not rest in peace as their remains are robbed from graveyards. Attacks against a few of them constitutes a danger to all of them.”