Man with Albinism Killed in Malawi; Urgent Change and Protection Needed

 

On August 17, 2021, Amnesty International released an urgent call to action to provide protection in Malawi for those with albinism. This call for change came following the death of 20-year-old Ian Muhamba, who had albinism. Over the last few decades, violence against those with this condition has been prevalent in Malawi. As a result, more assistance is needed to ensure the protection of these individuals. 

Ian Muhamba’s Death

Ian Muhamba was last seen on July 23, 2021 in Blantyre, Malawi. After being reported missing, it took approximately 22 days before Ian’s body was found in Kachere, about 8.2 kilometers (5.1 miles) away.

Unfortunately, Ian’s death highlights a sobering and frightening reality for those with albinism living in East and Southern Africa. According to a Joint Report published by Amnesty International:

The UN noted that from 2000 to 2013 it had received 200 reports of ritual attacks on people with albinism across 15 African countries. Since November 2014, however, an unprecedented wave of killings and other human rights abuses including abductions and robberies against people with albinism has swept through Malawi, [and] people are targeted for their body parts in the belief that they contain magical powers.

Following Ian’s death, Amnesty International directors have spoken out urging the Malawi government to better protect those with albinism. To do so, the government should work harder to investigate past attacks or violence, while also launching a swift investigation into this most recent murder. 

Albinism associations in Malawi also got together following Ian’s death to discuss resolutions, to be presented to the Southern Africa Development Committee, to better confer protection for those with albinism.

Albinism

Albinism consists of a group of genetic disorders characterized by the abnormal production of melanin. Typically, melanin acts as a pigment; the type and amount produced dictate hair, skin, and eye color. In this case, the body produces little or no melanin, resulting in extremely pale skin that is sensitive to the sun, light blue to light brown eyes, and (in many cases) white or pale-blonde hair. However, if someone has slightly more melanin, they can have this condition alongside slightly darker brown or red hair. People with albinism are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Additional characteristics include freckles or moles which develop following sun exposure, nystagmus (involuntary eye movements), photophobia (light sensitivity), blurred vision, or extreme near- or far-sightedness.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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