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Attacks on Albinos Resurface in Malawi; UN Offers to Help 

This girl survived an abduction in April 2019 the night when her albino brother Goodson was abducted in Dedza district in central Malawi. (Lameck Masina/VOA)
This girl survived an abduction in April 2019 the night when her albino brother Goodson was abducted in Dedza district in central Malawi. (Lameck Masina/VOA)

Malawi police say fresh attacks against albino people have left one person dead and a girl traumatized. The United Nations in Malawi on Wednesday called on the government to address the root causes of the attacks, which have killed over 170 albinos over the past seven years.

Police records show that two people have been attacked within the past week in southern Malawi.

The latest is an attack on a 12-year-old albino girl in Machinga district who narrowly survived abduction Tuesday night when two unknown assailants broke into her bedroom.

The assailants, police say, fled after the girl’s mother shouted for help.

The incident came three days after police in Mangochi district arrested three people in connection to the death on a 26-year-old man, Saidi Futon Dayton, who went missing January 27.

According to police, the attackers confirmed killing Dayton but said his body was taken in a bag for sale by their accomplice, who is still at large.

Boniface Massa is country director of Standing Voice Malawi, an international NGO on rights for people with albinism.

“It’s very emotional. I never expected that attacks to the level of someone being killed will happen again. I am aware there have been threats but I never expected that in 2021 we will register a case of someone being killed. So, it’s really a shocking moment for me. As also a person with albinism, it brings me back all memories of my brothers and sisters whom we have lost," said Massa.

Albinos in Malawi have been facing attacks because of false beliefs that concoctions mixed with their body parts brings wealth and good luck.

Statistics show over 170 albinos have been killed since 2014, with others missing and graves exhumed.

Malawi’s government has tried various means to end these attacks.

In 2019, it distributed mobile personal security alarms to the country’s estimated 10,000 albinos.

But Massa said the introduction of the security gadgets hasn’t changed anything.

“That’s a very good clear indicator of a failed system because the program needs to be monitored; the program needs to be evaluated to see how successful it has been. But unfortunately, in the recent attacks that we have seen in Malawi, we haven’t seen these alarms working,” said Massa.

In a statement released Wednesday, the United Nations called on Malawi’s government to allocate adequate funds toward addressing the root causes of the attacks.

Maria Jose Torres is U.N. resident coordinator for Malawi.

“This is not an isolated incident. It is related to causes that go from harmful practice to poverty towards discrimination and required comprehensive approach. And this approach is embedded in (the) National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism. So actually the plan is there and it is a matter of appropriate implementation," she said.

Malawi’s Minister of Gender and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati, told reporters this week the government is disturbed with the renewed attacks.

She said government has stepped up interventions to end the attacks which include sensitization campaigns involving police, traditional and religious leaders.