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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Breathing Dirty Air Can Make You More Prone To Diabetes, Obesity and other Chronic illnesses: Study

The researchers looked at data from air-monitoring stations near the subjects' addresses to calculate their previous-year exposure to ozone (which forms when emissions from vehicles are exposed to sunlight), particulate matter (hazardous particles suspended in the air), and nitrous oxide (a toxic byproduct of burning fossil fuel)

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Pollution
Worldwide, according to research published this month, air pollution kills 8.8 million people annually - more than smoking or war. Pixabay

Breathing dirty air takes a heavy toll on gut bacteria, boosting risk of obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders and other chronic illnesses, a new study revealed.

The study, published in the journal Environment International, is the first to link air pollution to changes in the structure and function of the human gut microbiome – the collection of trillions of microorganisms residing within us. The research found, with young adults exposed to higher levels of ozone showing less microbial diversity and more of certain species associated with obesity and disease.

“We know from previous research that air pollutants can have a whole host of adverse health effects,” said study senior author Tanya Alderete, Assistant Professor at University of Colorado Boulder in the US. “The takeaway from this paper is that some of those effects might be due to changes in the gut,” Alderete added.

Worldwide, according to research published this month, air pollution kills 8.8 million people annually – more than smoking or war. While much attention has been paid to respiratory health, Alderete’s previous studies have shown pollution can also impair the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and influence risk for obesity.

Other research has shown visits to emergency rooms for gastrointestinal problems spike on high pollution days, and youth with high exposure to traffic exhaust have greater risk of developing Crohn’s disease. To investigate just what might be going on inside the gut, the research team used cutting-edge whole-genome sequencing to analyse fecal samples from 101 young adults in Southern California.

The researchers looked at data from air-monitoring stations near the subjects’ addresses to calculate their previous-year exposure to ozone (which forms when emissions from vehicles are exposed to sunlight), particulate matter (hazardous particles suspended in the air), and nitrous oxide (a toxic byproduct of burning fossil fuel).

Of all the pollutants measured, ozone had the greatest impact on the gut by far, accounting for about 11 per cent of the variation seen between study subjects – more of an impact than gender, ethnicity or even diet. Those with higher exposure to ozone also had less variety of bacteria living in their gut, according to the study.

“This is important since lower (bacteria) diversity has been linked with obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” noted Alderete. Subjects with higher exposure to ozone also had a greater abundance of a specific species called Bacteroides caecimuris.

Air Pollution, Global Warming, Mask, Doctor, Protection
Breathing dirty air takes a heavy toll on gut bacteria, boosting risk of obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders and other chronic illnesses, a new study revealed. Pixabay

That’s important, because some studies have associated high levels of Bacteroides with obesity. In all, the researchers identified 128 bacterial species influenced by increased ozone exposure. Some may impact the release of insulin, the hormone responsible for ushering sugar into the muscles for energy.

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Other species can produce metabolites, including fatty acids, which help maintain gut barrier integrity and ward off inflammation, the researchers said. “Ozone is likely changing the environment of your gut to favour some bacteria over others, and that can have health consequences,” Alderete concluded. (IANS)

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Malawi Parliament Allows Cultivation of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes

Malawi Parliament Okays Cultivation of Cannabis or Marijuana

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Cannabis
Legalization of the industrial cannabis in Malawi has excited many famers who abandoned tobacco due to poor prices. VOA

By Lameck Masina

In Malawi, parliament has passed a bill which allows cultivation of cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes. Backers of the bill say cannabis will boost the economy, which is largely dependent on tobacco. Anti-drug campaigners and religious conservatives say the move will encourage recreational use of marijuana.

Former lawmaker Boniface Kadzamira first brought the cannabis bill to parliament in 2014 amid opposition from fellow parliamentarians. Now, Kadzamira says he feels vindicated.

“I am very happy that finally the bill has passed because when I was starting this issue people thought I was crazy,” he said.  “They called me names. The national assembly, in fact, the first day laughed at me; they booed at me. But I was determined because I had the facts on my fingertips.” Kadzamira says the facts included research showing that hemp — a non-drug product of cannabis — can be used to produce soap, lighting oil, medicines and other useful products.

Malawi is now one of five southern African countries  — along with Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho and South Africa — that have legalized industrial hemp. South Africa went a step further in 2018 by decriminalizing recreational use of cannabis. Ben Kalua is an economics professor at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi. He says legalization will help the country diversify its agriculture-based economy.

“It’s economically viable because it has a very long value chain. It has so many by-products of industrial hemp including fiber for construction. There are all products that can be derived from that plant compared to tobacco,” he said. Malawi has long relied on tobacco, which accounts for about 13 percent of its gross domestic product and 60 percent of its foreign exchange earnings.

Cannabis
Various varieties of the industrial cannabis which was grown on trial basis at Chitedze Research Station in Lilongwe. VOA

Over the years, however, tobacco prices per kilogram have fallen, largely because of anti-tobacco campaigns and fewer people smoking. Tobacco farmers like Hartley Changamala say they feel they now have an alternative.

He says, “Some of us are growing tobacco because we don’t have an alternative crop to bring us income. But those who knew that tobacco farming has now become useless have stopped. So with legalization of the industrial cannabis, I feel I can benefit a lot as a farmer.” Anti-drug campaigners and religious conservatives continue to argue that legalizing cannabis will encourage recreational use of marijuana.

Nelson Zakeyu, an executive director for the NGO Drug Fight Malawi, says, “Why I am saying this is that there is very minimal difference in appearance between the two: Indian hemp [marijuana] and this industrial hemp. So that’s where the danger is, because many will be [taking] the Indian hemp as if they are taking the industrial hemp. So, we will end up having abnormal citizens in the country.”

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Researchers say industrial hemp has a very low amount of the substance in marijuana which makes people high. Malawian President Peter Mutharika has until March 19 to sign the cannabis bill into law. The president has not indicated what he will do. (VOA)

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Hazardous Dangers Caused by Pest Repellants

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pest-repellants
Repellents offer notable convenience when it comes to keeping away biting and stinging pests.

By Dinesh Kumar

Repellents offer notable convenience when it comes to keeping away biting and stinging pests. They work by interfering with the natural mechanisms that pests use to locate their victims.  For example, chemical agents within mosquito repellents mask the carbon dioxide and sweat odour produced by the body. In this manner, mosquito repellents make a person ‘invisible’ to this disease-carrying insect. 

Other pest repellents use non-biodegradable synthetic chemicals capable of interfering with vital metabolic processes in the target pest. Chemicals such as diethyl-methyl benzamide( DEET) and dimethyl phthalate (DMP) can interfere with the respiratory system of many insect species even at low concentrations. Best Pest Control Companies will use organic ways to get rid of the pests. 

This capability is why many popular pest repellents contain DEET and DMP as the main active ingredients. Unfortunately, these highly effective organic compounds pose a notable health risk to human beings in higher concentrations. This article looks at the various dangers posed by pest repellents.

  • Poisoning of Small children

Pest repellent manufacturers try to make their products as desirable as possible. This is why popular‘s repellants use fruity sweet-smelling fragrances that appeal to a consumer’s sense of smell. Furthermore, manufacturers often present their products as multifunctional purchases. Good examples would be cans of pest repellant that you can use as air-fresheners and skin lotions with insect-repelling properties.

pest-repellants
Other pest repellents use non-biodegradable synthetic chemicals capable of interfering with vital metabolic processes in the target pest.

While it is only logical to use a sweet-smelling pest repellent, such repellents do pose a significant danger when it comes to small kids. Reason being, the sweet smell might trick a child into eating a liquid or balm repellant. In this scenario, severe poisoning can occur due to the child’s lower body weight.

  • Cancer with Longterm Use

The non-biodegradable organic nature of the active ingredients found in pest repellents pose yet another significant hazard to users of these products. Users typically apply the repellent directly to the skin, either an aerosol spray or body lotion. When this happens, the active chemical agents within the product diffuse across the layers of skin and end up in the bloodstream. 

In this manner, DEET, DMP and other toxic organic compounds begin accumulating within body tissue. In a wide range of scenarios, these chemicals are fat-soluble, so end up in fatty tissue. Over time, and with regular use of pest repellents, concentrations of these harmful chemicals can reach such high levels that cancer develops. However, it takes decades of fanatical pest repellent use for one to develop the fatal condition.

  • Skin Conditions

pest repellants
Proper use of pest repellents requires users to spray or rub the chemical concoction onto the skin. Pixabay

Proper use of pest repellents requires users to spray or rub the chemical concoction onto the skin. As a consequence, some of the active ingredients in the repellent start making their way into the skin. While within the skin, these reactive chemical compounds can irritate cell membranes and even dehydrate cells. 

In the above scenario, red itchy blotches begin to form around the area of application. These blotches typically dissipate with discontinued use of the repellent.  However, some people do experience adverse reactions to the chemicals whereby painful lesions develop on the skin. It is, therefore, advisable to immediately stop using a pest repellant once you notice increased sensitivity on areas of application.

Conclusion

Despite having notable practical benefits, the active ingredients in pest repellents do pose a considerable health risk to users. Still there are some pest removal service providers where they use natural pest repellants and other alternative ways to control pests.

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Author Bio:

Dinesh Kumar VM.

I’m an SEO Analyst and blogger outreach expert at ClickDo Ltd. Also work in Google Ads, Facebook Ads & Remarketing. Enjoy writing business & tech related blogs, Contributor of London Business News blog.