People with albinism feel shortchanged

webnexttech | People with albinism feel shortchanged

Thirty-one-year old Aubrey Zitsotso has albinism. He lives ia a mud-walled grass thatched house with a rickety door and sack cloth covered window. The structure cannot in any way protect the father of two from assailants that terrorise people with albinism (Pwas) to quench their ritual thirst. “I fear for my life. Sometimes I don’t sleep at all,” he said in an interview on Friday. Although his neighbours are close relatives, he concedes that it does not guarantee his safety as past attacks against Pwas triggered mistrust. “I have heard stories about some who were killed with the help of their relatives. This puts me on guard. It is only a secure house that can guarantee my safety,” he says. The Ntcheu-man, who lives off selling potatoes, concedes his earnings are not enough to construct a better house. Like hundreds of others, he has been counting on the government-funded K5 billion housing project for Pwas. However, he is disappointed that the project is moving at a snail’s pace. According to the 2024/25 Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) for the 965 houses lined up for construction, only 30 or four percent have been completed.. This means three years after the project was launched, 96 percent of people with albinism earmarked as beneficiaries still live in unsafe houses. Since 2014, over 170 people with albinism have been killed or attacked over beliefs that their body parts bring luck and wealth. Some religious leaders, police, herbalists, relatives of the deceased and survivors have been arrested in connection with the attacks and exhumations. The PSIP attributes the delay to procurement challenges, low funding levels and soaring cost of construction materials. It reads: “The procurement process was done at district councils of which every council procured contractors at their own time which derailed the implementation of the project. “Late payment to some contractors has delayed project implementation. The fluctuation of building materials due to inflation has raised the cost of the house.” In an interview, the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) national coordinator Maynard Zacharia said they are not impressed with the progress. “We are happy with the commitment and political will because the government has been allocating resources into the project. However, we are not impressed with the implementation. The four percent is way too low,” he said. Zacharia warned that many Pwas are at risk of attacks and he called for swiftness. Apam further observed that there are challenges with the completed houses such as substandard construction materials. “Also, we have completed houses where the contractor was paid, but didn’t pay his workers who ended up locking them,” he said. Zacharia cried foul over Apam’s exclusion in the monitoring of the project which he believes has resulted in incidents of sub-standard work. The housing project falls under the National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism (2018-2022). Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare public relations officer Pauline Kaude referred the matter to the Ministry of Lands. Malawi Council for the Handicapped (Macoha) executive director George Chiusiwa branded the progress as “a serious concern as the country still experiences heinous crimes against persons with albinism.” While attacks against Pwas have not been as rampant, Apam says there were seven exhumations last year alone. Observers say attacks soar every time the country is about to hold general elections. However, Chiusiwa says there has not been a reduction in the human rights threats to this vulnerable social group. “Therefore, there is an urgent need for strategic investments in this housing security programme,” he said. Chiusiwa also demanded transparency and accountability in the project implementation.

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