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Malawi should invest in community based protection systems to stop attacks on people with albinism - UN Expert

GENEVA (16 March 2017) – A fresh call for prompt action to protect people with albinism in Malawi is being made by a UN rights expert following a number of attacks, including several this year across the country.

The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero says: “Despite various actions taken by the government of Malawi to address the situation, recent attacks demonstrate that the Government needs to redouble its efforts to end these atrocities.”

The Expert called for a more committed implementation of the Government’s own Response Plan including the strengthening of preventative, protection and accountability measures. These must include support for policing structures at community level as well as prompt investigation and prosecution of cases.

There is also a need for sustained campaign to raise awareness of the issues, as well as more strategic efforts to address the root causes of the attacks. In particular, there should be a public education drive aimed at eradicating the mistaken belief by those who practice witchcraft that body parts of people with albinism have magical powers.

“The absence of such measures makes Malawians with albinism ultra-vulnerable to attacks, leaving them plagued with an untenable level of fear for their lives,” the expert said.

“It is evident that Malawi cannot do this alone. Therefore I strongly urge the government to seek help from other State partners as well as international development partners with the same zeal and urgency that it applies when confronted with other crises facing its citizens. The problem will not just ‘go away’ on its own without this type of investment and support,” Ms. Ero stressed. 

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Ms. Ikponwosa Ero (Nigeria) was designated in June 2015 as the first UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism by the Human Rights Council. Inspired by her experiences as a person with albinism, Ms. Ero spent the last seven years working on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. As international advocacy and legal officer of Under The Same Sun, an NGO with a focus on albinism, she participated in multiple activities and panels at the UN in Geneva and New York. She has extensive experience in research, policy development and advocacy in the field of albinism. She is the author of numerous papers and articles on the issue, including with regards to the categorisation of persons with albinism in the international human rights system.

Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Arnaud Chaltin (+41 22 91 79 188) or write to albinism@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Bryan Wilson, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / mediaconsultant1@ohchr.org)

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