Safe at last – Capital Radio Malawi
24 July, 2024

Safe at last

In Chitani Village nestled in the heart of Chikwawa District, a single mother’s journey of resilience and hope brightens the transformative impact of the government’s Persons With Albinism (PWA) House Construction Project aimed at providing safe housing for vulnerable communities.

For Fagesi John Masaza, life took a tragic turn in 2016 while in search for greener pastures in Mozambique, her maternal home.

Her husband had suddenly passed away three months earlier, leaving her on her own to take care of their six children, five of whom were born with albinism.

“While in Mozambique, a harrowing night followed. There was a brutal attack on my house by thugs who robbed the life of my beloved nine-year-old son,” she explains amidst sobs.

“The merciless thugs initially captured three of my children, but after we shouted for help, our neighbours managed to rescue two children, the other one was already hacked to death,” recalls Masaza.

Although the mob managed to catch one of the thugs and burnt him to death, this experience shattered the sense of security for Masaza’s family.

“When Group Village Headman (GVH) Chitani heard the news, he followed us to Mozambique and took us back to our home village in Malawi for safety,” she recalls.

Despite relocating, the shadows of danger lingered, until hope emerged in the form of the Government-led PWA housing project whose aim is to construct secure homes for persons with albinism.

According to GVH Chitani, the house that the family was living in was not safe.

“That’s the only house that was available, but I asked some men from my village to help me take turns guarding the house during the night,” he says.

“So the news that the government will build them a house was a relief not just for the family but everyone who was concerned about their safety and well-being,” adds GVH Chitani.

At present, Masaza and her children have stepped into their new abode with a mix of relief, gratitude, and renewed optimism.

Thanks to the new house her children now have hope of excelling academically.

“I now feel safe and motivated to work hard in school towards my dream of becoming a nurse, my little brother Jordan is also happier now,” says 15-year-old Faless.

This project was launched in 2020, following concerns on the welfare of vulnerable groups such as Persons with Albinism.

Malawi Government through the Department of Housing in the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development embarked on the PWA House Construction Project with local councils being given the responsibility of supervising the implementation process and ensuring that quality controls are followed by all stakeholders.

According to the Ministry’s District Housing Officer for Chikwawa Thandiwe Ngalande, the primary focus is to ensure that every house constructed under this project meets the highest standards of safety and security for Persons with Albinism.

The Ministry of Gender through the Department of Disability and Elderly, in partnership with the Association of People with Albinism (APAM), identifies beneficiaries for housing support.

The Ministry of Lands oversees the construction process, with a focus on vulnerable households with poor living conditions or a high number of members with albinism, prioritizing their housing needs.

“Our goal is not just to build houses but to create sustainable living environments that promote the well-being and dignity of Persons with Albinism.

Malawi has seen an alarming increase in human rights abuses against Persons with Albinism, including abductions, killings, and grave robberies therefore safety is of paramount importance,” explains Ngalande.

APAM national coordinator Maynard Zacharia concurs with Ngalande on the need to provide safe housing for people with albinism.

“We are happy to see such a project being completed, this is a life-changing project to members of our community; persons with albinism.

You can already see the number of beneficiaries for this particular house, we are talking about protecting six people, because of one single house, “explains Zacharia.

Zacharia advises that with more effort, the project will surely improve the protection of people with albinism, that is, persons with albinism and improve their well-being.

“So we continue to applaud the government for the initiative, and we will continue to commend the political will that is there, in as far as the funding of the project is concerned and that has also been demonstrated by including funds for project in the recent the recent budget that has just been passed by Parliament, we have an allocation for the construction of houses for persons with albinism,” he explains.

Zacharia reiterates APAM’s appreciation for the project and acknowledgment of its impact on the community, but ends with an appeal for faster implementation to ensure more people benefit from the project.

According to Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC) Programmes Officer Enock Chinkhuntha, one of the most critical aspects in promoting and protecting rights of persons with albinism is safety and security.

“Most of the attacks that have occurred to persons with albinism are due to insecure houses as a majority of them live in abject poverty, and it’s practically impossible for them to construct secure houses on their own,” says Chinkhuntha.

Chinkhuntha further commended the move by the government to build secure houses for vulnerable persons with albinism.

He adds that the government and partners should invest more resources in this project to address the “slow speed” at which the project is progressing. He attributes this to limited resources.

Says Chinkhuntha: “This can somehow be addressed if the government can review the National Action Plan for Persons with Albinism (NAPPA), which is a blueprint in addressing issues of Albinism in Malawi.”

“The document expired in 2022, and there is a need for the government and stakeholders to swiftly review it in light of emerging social and economic developments.”

Meanwhile Chikwawa District is among the selected District Councils that are implementing additional houses under the PWA House Construction Project.

Ngalande, who is also responsible for managing the housing projects in the district, says they are working closely with relevant stakeholders to streamline the implementation process and address any challenges that may arise.

 “We welcome feedback and suggestions from the community and stakeholders to improve the project’s impact and ensure it aligns with the needs of the beneficiaries,” concludes Ngalande.

Since 2021, the average cost of houses has increased from K12.9 million to K27.2 million in 2022/2023 and K30.9 million in 2023/24.

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