Saturday December 14, 2019

The Traditional Healers of Malawi Deny Link to Albino Killings

The ban will not go into effect until the plaintiffs pay to publish the injunction in local media for seven consecutive days

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Albino toddlers killed for witchcraft. Image source: seeker.com
  • Traditional healers, known locally as herbalists, say they will challenge the ruling
  • In Malawi, it is common to consult herbalists for ailments such as mental illness, epilepsy and impotence
  • The ban will not go into effect until the plaintiffs pay to publish the injunction in local media for seven consecutive days

The high court in Malawi has banned so-called witch doctors in a bid to reduce demand for albino body parts. Malawi’s albino association has praised the ruling, but traditional healers have vowed to fight it, saying they are not involved in magic or murder.

The high court’s ruling last week stemmed from a complaint filed by three residents of the city of Mzuzu in northern Malawi. One of them said she paid a witch doctor a lot of money after he promised a charm that would make her ex-lover take her back.

At least 20 of the 60 albinos who fled their homes in rural areas to seek protection in and around the eastern Burundian town of Ruyigi are still living under police guard in improvised shelters. Ten men implicated in the trade in albino body parts for use as talismans are currently in the town’s central prison awaiting trial. As in its near neighbour, Tanzania’s Kigoma region, the Burundi Red Cross (BRC) Ruyigi branch played a lead role in coordinating the spontaneous local humanitarian response to the albino emergency last year, providing food, mosquito nets, clothes, building materials for toilets and moral support to the shelters. The BRC is now seeking external support for a broader operation to help reintegrate albinos into mainstream society and reduce their acute vulnerability to hunters, skin cancer, and educational and social marginalization. The picture shows Marie Niyukuri and her albino son, Ephreim, 7, who has an albino sister and eight black siblings. A suspected albino-hunter last year rode his bike straight at Ephreim in an apparent attempt to fake a road accident and make off with the boy’s body. But Ephreim was pulled back by his non-albino friends, and his attacker narrowly escaped being lynched on the spot by vigilant neighbours, jumpy since a small albino boy was snatched and killed in the neighbouring district. Image source: thecircular.org
At least 20 of the 60 albinos who fled their homes in rural areas to seek protection in and around the eastern Burundian town of Ruyigi are still living under police guard in improvised shelters. Image source: thecircular.org

“One of the clients was complaining that the source of the deaths of albinos in the country is these witch doctors because what they do is that they prescribe body parts of albinos, like bones,” said George Kadzipatike, the lawyer for the complainants.

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Those false claims have led to an alarming uptick in attacks on albinos in Malawi in the past two years.

The judge issued an injunction against what he called “witch doctors, traditional healers, charm sellers, fortune tellers and magicians,” and ads for their services.

The ban will not go into effect until the plaintiffs pay to publish the injunction in local media for seven consecutive days.

Herbalists’ response

Traditional healers, known locally as herbalists, say they will challenge the ruling. They say they are not involved in magic or the trafficking of albino body parts.

“To us, it is unfair because there is no way we can combine human body [parts] and something which is going to be consumed,” said Robins Zaniko, the general secretary for the International Traditional Medicine Council of Malawi. “Because what we mainly give out to people is traditional medicine, which is consumable. We give people [medicine] to drink, to eat so that they can be cured from their various diseases.”

Albinistic girl in New Guinea. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Albinistic girl in New Guinea. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

He says no herbalist has been among those arrested in connection with recent albino killings.

Timothy Mtambo, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, says banning all herbalists is not the answer.

“You can’t say we are banning everyone,” he said. “I would say we should have found mechanisms to make sure that we deal with those that are suspected and prove that [they] are responsible, rather than making a decision which is wholesale.”

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In Malawi, it is common to consult herbalists for ailments such as mental illness, epilepsy and impotence.

“There are times when we go to the hospitals [and] they tell us that there is no medication, so we instead go to the herbalists,” said Mbayani resident Enock Chigalu.

At least 18 people with albinism have been killed since November 2014, and five more are missing, according to an Amnesty International report released this month. Amnesty says police have not done enough to investigate the crimes, and the punishments doled out are too lenient. (VOA)

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  • AJ Krish

    Every nation has their own indigenous art of healing. Calling them witch doctors and accusing them of crimes is absurd .Further, banning them is crossing the line.Rather than finding the culprits,they took the easy way out by blaming these herbal doctors.Truly sad.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    I feel this is correct. Banning these quacks would result in people getting the right treatment by qualified doctors. There are numerous cases where casualties are caused as they are not experienced. plus, these doctors do not have any kind of knowledge about the syndromes, the side effects, the allergies, etc about the disease.

  • Paras Vashisth

    For any patient , a doctor is not lesser than God but exceptions are always there.
    It effects the faith and feelings of people to the doctors.

  • sahil nandwani

    After seeing the problem of Malawi, I feel that the people should be mentally aware,that they should take treatments from the qualified doctors rather than the witch doctors.

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  • AJ Krish

    Every nation has their own indigenous art of healing. Calling them witch doctors and accusing them of crimes is absurd .Further, banning them is crossing the line.Rather than finding the culprits,they took the easy way out by blaming these herbal doctors.Truly sad.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    I feel this is correct. Banning these quacks would result in people getting the right treatment by qualified doctors. There are numerous cases where casualties are caused as they are not experienced. plus, these doctors do not have any kind of knowledge about the syndromes, the side effects, the allergies, etc about the disease.

  • Paras Vashisth

    For any patient , a doctor is not lesser than God but exceptions are always there.
    It effects the faith and feelings of people to the doctors.

  • sahil nandwani

    After seeing the problem of Malawi, I feel that the people should be mentally aware,that they should take treatments from the qualified doctors rather than the witch doctors.

Next Story

Children of Diabetic Mothers May Develop Heart Risks: Study

Kids born of diabetic mothers at heart risk

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Diabetes- heart
Children of mothers with diabetes have increased rates of early onset heart diseases. Pixabay

Children of mothers with diabetes have increased rates of early onset cardiovascular disease or CVD (conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels) from childhood up to the age of 40, the researchers have warned.

The increased rates were more pronounced among children of mothers with a history of CVD or diabetic complications, said the study published in the journal The BMJ.

“our study provides evidence that children of mothers with diabetes, especially those with a history of CVD or with diabetic complications, had increased rates of early onset CVD throughout the early decades of life,” said study researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark.

If this association is shown to be causal, preventing, screening, and treating diabetes in women of childbearing age could be important not only for improving the health of the women but also for reducing long term risks of CVD in their offspring, the researchers added

The number of women diagnosed with diabetes before or during pregnancy has increased globally, and children of these women are more likely to have risk factors for future CVD, such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels.

It is unclear, however, whether or to what extent exposure to diabetes in the womb increases the risk of developing CVD in offspring over a lifetime.

Heart disease
Children with diabetic mothers may develop CVD which may increase heart complications. Pixabay

So an international team of researchers set out to evaluate associations between diabetes diagnosed before or during pregnancy and early onset CVD in children during their first four decades of life.

They base their findings on national registry data for over 2.4 million children born without congenital heart disease in Denmark from 1977 to 2016.

Diabetes was categorised as pregestational (before pregnancy) or gestational (during pregnancy) and women with diabetic complications were identified.

Other potentially influential factors, such as mother’s age, education, lifestyle and medical history were also taken into account.

During up to 40 years of follow-up, children of mothers with diabetes had a 29 per cent increased overall rate of early onset CVD compared with children of mothers who did not have diabetes (cumulative risks: 17.8 per cent vs 13.1 per cent ).

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The researchers also found higher rates for specific types of CVD children of mothers with diabetes, particularly heart failure (45 per cent), hypertensive disease (78 per cent), deep vein thrombosis (82 per cent), and pulmonary embolism (91 per cent).

Increased rates were seen in each age group in childhood (before 20 years of age) and early adulthood (from 20 to 40 years of age), regardless of the type of diabetes they were exposed to (pregestational or gestational) and rates were similar for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the study said. (IANS)