Malawi making strides in protecting children with albinism

A man with albinism who is a member of the ruling Democratic Party attends a final election campaign rally of the incumbent Malawian president at Mjamba Park in the commercial city of Blantyre on May 18, 2019, ahead of genereal elections. - Malawians head to the polls for general elections of May 21, 2019. (Photo by AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP) (Photo credit should read AMOS GUMULIRA/AFP via Getty Images)
A Malawian man with albinism attends a political rally in the commercial city of Blantyre on May 18, 2019. (AMOS GUMULIRA/AFP via Getty Images)

In Malawi, children with albinism face a lot of challenges including discrimination, attacks and ritual killings. For some time, government and non-governmental organizations have been working hard to reverse the trend.

As the world commemorates International Albinism Awareness Day under the theme “Strength Beyond All Odds”, Malawians are also looking at strides made so far in protecting children with albinism.

Mercy Mleme recalls how she adopted Mina Godfrey, a young girl and an orphan with albinism who escaped an ambush from his uncle in 2015.

She said that one night in 2015, Godfrey’s uncle took out the young girl to sell her to unknown people, upon discussing the prices, the young girl noted that she was in danger and she escaped to the nearest village.

Upon hearing the news about the incident, Mleme decided to make arrangements with her guardians and the traditional authority chief in the area to adopt the child. Since then the child has been in her custody and she is doing well at school. Meanwhile, Mleme has made several initiatives to make sure that the child is safe.

“To make sure that the child is protected, I am now keeping 7 dogs around my house and I have also added new watchmen at night. Am not rich, but am just trying to make sure that the child is safer. Thank God, Godfrey is doing well at school and am sure she has a bright future,” she said.

Godfrey, who wants to go to a law school after her studies, is feeling safer now at a private boarding school in Zomba, in southern Malawi. She believes that one day she will be able to protect people with albinism in her village in Machinga, in southern Malawi, from different threats and violence.

Mike Tholowa, headmaster of Nsanjama Private Primary School in Zomba says that his school is making sure that the school is safe for children. According to him, parents with children with albinism are convinced to send their children to this school because of the tight security measures that the school has.

Stories like that are an example of initiatives that are being done by people in communities in making sure that the rights and lives of children with albinism are protected.

Meanwhile, the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) together with parents and police are making efforts to make sure that people with albinism are protected. The organization has been giving out personal security alarms to help people with albinism to raise alert in times of trouble.

According to Abdullah Byson, APAM chairperson in Machinga, only 60 percent of the people in the district who received the alarms are able to use them efficiently. Therefore, there is a need for stakeholders to do civic education on the right use and safety.

However, Byson believes that the efforts that are being made by the government and other non-governmental organizations are going to bear fruits in the long run. He, therefore, called upon international organizations to join the forces in efforts to protect the rights and lives of people with albinism in Malawi.