, 04 December, 2019 / 11:59 PM
In a country where people living with albinism face persistent threats of being killed for their body parts, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) has launched a two-year campaign to raise awareness throughout the country about the rights of people with albinism and their rights, CCJP National Coordinator has told ACI Africa.
“This campaign seeks to address the myriad challenges that people with albinism face in the districts of Zomba and Machinga in Zomba diocese,” CCJP Coordinator, Boniface Chibwana told ACI Africa in an interview Wednesday, December 4.
According to Chibwana, “people with albinism have been discriminated against, abducted, and killed because of some stupid myths that their bones fetches a lot of money and that their body tissues brings fortunes to people.”
Organized in collaboration with the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) and the Council of Bishops in Scotland (SCIAF), the campaign will focus on local empowerment, district awareness, community awareness and legal training on the rights of people with albinism, Chibwana revealed during the interview.
Launched last Wednesday, November 27 under the title "Promoting and protecting the rights to health care and access to justice for persons with albinism in Malawi for more secure and dignified lives" the campaign, Chibwana said, seeks “to demystify these myths in local communities and completely eradicate this barbaric behavior by changing the minds of the people.”
“People with albinism face a lot of challenges when it comes to accessing health services in district hospitals,” Chibwana decried and added, “The campaign would sensitize medical personnel for them to ably handle people with albinism with care.”
The two-year campaign, expected to conclude on October 30, 2021 will see participants engage in monitoring the “provision of sun screen lotion in the hospitals to be given to patients.”
According to a 2018 Amnesty International report on albinism in Malawi, “Since November 2014, the number of reported cases against people with albinism has risen to 148 cases, including 14 murders and seven attempted murders.”
Citing the Malawi Police Service and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Amnesty International report further indicates that “Only 30 percent of the 148 reported cases against people with albinism (had) been concluded” and that at the time, “only one murder and one attempted murder cases (had) been successfully prosecuted.”
When there are abductions and killings, Chibwana told ACI Africa, “cases take ages in the courts of law before they are concluded and we would want to have speedy prosecution on albinism cases and lobby for stiffer punishment on them through this campaign.”
To help resolve the challenge of protracted legal processes and the backlog of cases as well as prevent abductions, the CCJP Coordinator noted that the launched countrywide campaign “will also engage government officials at national level to lobby for policies that would bring tight security to people with albinism.”
“As a Church we believe in the sanctity of life and that all human beings should be protected so the campaign will exactly endeavor to do that,” Chibwana emphasized.
Asked what concrete measures have been taken by local churches to reach out to people living with albinism, Chibwana said, “The diocese of Zomba pays school fees for a lot of girls and boys with albinism in primary and secondary schools.”
While hoping for great collaboration with relevant stakeholders, Chibwana expressed the belief that “it is possible to win the battle that people with albinism face.”
He said, “Human rights issues are not negotiable and it is not a privilege for people with albinism to enjoy human rights fundamentals.”
“It is the responsibility of everyone to enhance human rights fundamentals,” Chibwana said and concluded, “The challenges that people with albinism in Malawi face can be eradicated if the values of human dignity and sanctity of life permeates in the fabric of society.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa