Malawi – ‘Vampire’ Attacks Reflect Healthcare Tensions

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Economic woes and unhappiness with healthcare have contributed to the panic in the southern part of the country, says a leading clinical psychologist.

Ten people have been killed and others attacked in October over accusations of blood sucking in Malawi. Police have made some 200 arrests of those allegedly involved in mob justice.

“It’s a reflection of the way the country looks at things and makes sense of tensions and economic pressures,” Dr. Chiwoza Bandawe, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Malawi in Blantyre told RFI.

The first blood sucking accusations in Malawi occurred in 1948 and 1949, according to Catholic University lecturer Sangwani Tembo, who spoke at the university on this issue on October 27th.

While marginalised people, including widows, are typical scapegoats, accusations have been placed on the population at large, including doctors.

“It’s also about trying to make sense of the western-type medical profession vis-à-vis traditional medicines, and of course the western type has the power now, and all this contributes to the tension,” says Dr Bandawe.

“I think at some point also there’s been some dissatisfaction with the health system itself, because it has been under-resourced,” he says, adding that some stories have emerged where healthcare workers abused patients.

Medical practitioners are frequently on the receiving end of abuse, especially in the rural areas, says Dr. Amos Nyaka, the head of the Malawi Society for Medical Doctors in Lilongwe.

Lack of education comes into play as well, says Chitawira-based Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) Director Vincent Hango.

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Schoolchildren in Mulanje – CC 2010

“We have a good number of people who are illiterate. They believe in witchcraft. It’s very difficult to change their beliefs because this is what they have believed since they were born,” he says.

The government has enforced security in affected areas, but many feel that it should have taken a stauncher response, reassuring those who felt threatened by the wave of violence.

“As a country I think we’re very ashamed,” says Dr Nyaka, adding that the Malawi Society of Medical Doctors “will take this as a challenge to communicate to our people and to reassure them that they are not blood suckers.”

Malawi will from November 1st host a three-day high-level meeting on promoting policy coherence on health technology innovation and access for the African Regional Intellectual Property Office (ARIPO), said Malawi News Agency.

The meeting brings together a range of leaders, policymakers and institutions including representatives from Ministries of Trade, Health and Justice, civil society, international experts and academics.

Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi has said Malawi and many of the 18 ARIPO member states have made great strides in improving public health and by consequence, human development outcomes in recent years.

He said that despite significant progress, the burden of infectious diseases, particularly HIV, malaria and Tuberculosis pose a threat to public health.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu said the meeting comes at a time when countries around the world are pursuing various means to ensure availability and access to medicines for their citizens.

The meeting aims at providing a forum for ARIPO countries to exchange views and to share experiences on best practices that promote availability and access to affordable health coverage, Tembenu added.

The high-level meeting has been jointly organised by the Malawi government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

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Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 6, pp. 21458C

HEALTH: Malaria
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Vol. 54, Issue 4, pp. 21416A–21417C

MALAWI: High Future Growth?
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 5, pp. 21707A–21707C

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Health – Malaria Vaccine Trials

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Three Africa countries are selected for first phase of a Malaria vaccine pilot. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that Ghana, Kenya and Malawi a are to be pilot countries for a new Malaria vaccine for young children from 2018. The vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.

The vaccine was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and will be tested on children aged five to 17 months; it has taken decades of scientific and medical expertise to produce, and hundreds of millions of US dollars in funding.

The funding of US$49m for the first pilot phase is being funded by the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), UNITAID and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

However, the vaccine only has partial effectiveness, and the challenge is whether countries can deliver the required four doses per child, said WHO Africa Regional Director, Matshidiso Moeti.

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CC Radio Okapi 2006

Malaria infects roughly 200 million people each year, killing roughly half a million people, and Sub-Saharan Africa is hit particularly hard, with 90% of the world’s cases in 2015.

According to the WHO, modelling and data gathering has been so bad that it has been hard to tell if cases have been rising or falling over the last 15 years.

Kenya, Ghana and Malawi already have fairly strong prevention and vaccination programmes, but were chosen as they still have a high number of malaria cases. The vaccine will be delivered through existing health provisioning systems.

The WHO has stated its aim to wipe out the disease by 2040, although so far it has proven stubborn, with resistance problems to both drugs and insecticides.

According to Kathryn Maitland, Professor of Tropical Paediatric Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London, writing in a academic paper published in December 2016, “the slow progress in this field is astonishing, given that malaria has been around for millennia and has been a major force for human evolutionary selection…contrast this pace of change with out progress in the treatment of HIV, a disease a little more than three decades old.” (The Independent 24/4)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

HEALTH: Malaria
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21416A–21417C

HEALTH: Wiping Out Polio
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 3, Pp. 21381B–21381C

HEALTH: HIV Treatment Soars
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21236A–21237C

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Malawi – Opposition Divisions

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The main opposition in the country is torn by infighting as the leader is accused of corruption. 

The opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) is in disarray as a group of party rebels led by Secretary General Gustav Kaliwo is seeking to oust the President Lazarus Chakwera. The rebel group have called for a emergency convention in July this year.

“I have had meetings with almost 23 committees from various districts across the country who requested me to call for a convention. Time is running out, as Malawi Congress Party we need to put our house in order if we are to have any chance in 2019. Therefore, I am today announcing a convention will take place on Friday 7th July to Sunday 9th July,” said Kaliwo.

According to Article 40 of the MCP constitution, an emergency convention can only be called if the party’s national executive committee resolves by two thirds of its membership. Kaliwo challenged that he has a backing of more than half of the party’s district committees.

“The convention is the highest authority of the party. Some people might find this unacceptable, they are entitled to their opinion but the party belongs to these people (district chairpersons). Let us not destroy the party. We can disagree but let’s not be disagreeable,” he added.

According to Article 38 (1) of the constitution, the convention being the highest authority of the party may remove the president, deputy president, or a member of national executive committee from office if he or she wilfully and persistently disobeys the constitution.

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Lazarus Chakwera – source

MCP, the oldest party in the country, has been hit by divisions and factionalism. Chakwera is accused of corruption and lack of leadership, the misuse of funds and practicing a ‘tyrannical leadership’ which poses a threat to the country if he was to be elected as Malawian President in the future.

Party funds have also reportedly been diverted into Chakwera’s personal accounts, alongside accusations of soliciting money from renowned business tycoons in return for positions and favours, reported the Nyasa Times.

Kaliwo accused Chakwera of snubbing his calls for a face to face meeting to resolve issues. Kaliwo said all his efforts to meet the leader of opposition have failed without any justification or explanation. Kaliwo added that Chakwera has used the MCP Administrative Secretary Potipher Chidaya to communicate.

“I have been at pains to explain what is going on in Malawi Congress Party. People are losing hope. Malawi Congress Party has been known for unity and discipline and now it is degenerating into this state. I am concerned as people keep on asking questions of what is going on. I was hoping we resolve our issues internally than washing our dirty laundry in public,” Kaliwo said, reported the Nyasa Times.

Responding to the calls for a national convention, the MCP said that Kaliwo has no mandate for such a move, particularly without consulting Chakwera himself.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin: 

MALAWI: ‘Maizegate’ Minister Sacked
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 3, Pp. 21353B–21354A

Malawi – Cabinet Reshuffle
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 4, Pp. 20958A

MALAWI – TANZANIA: New Border Map
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 1, Pp. 20845A–20845C

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East Africa – Pest Outbreak Threatens Crops

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There are serious concerns over the new armyworm outbreak, which has already ruined large areas of cultivation.

On February 14th international leaders held talks in Harare, Zimbabwe, to tackle the armyworm outbreak, which has spread across several African countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ghana.

There have been more recent reports suggesting that Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia may also be seeing outbreaks. The species of ‘fall armyworm’ originates from the Americas and United Nations (UN) FAO coordinator for South Africa, David Phiri, said, “farmers do not know really how to treat it.”

The caterpillars eat maize, wheat, millet and rice, key food sources in southern and eastern Africa. The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) recently said that it is spreading rapidly and needs an urgent response.

The armyworm name is misleading as the pest is actually a caterpillar, and should not be confused with the African armyworm, which is known in the region. This species originates from the Americas, although no-one is sure how it made it to Africa. It is thought that it could have arrived on a commercial flight or in imported food.

According to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it has taken only eight weeks for the pest to spread to six southern African countries. The caterpillar stage does the damage but “it’s the adult moth that migrates long distances and that’s how it’s managed to get round Africa,” said Professor Ken Wilson, an armyworm expert.

“These army worms attack the maize leaves, the flower and even bore into the stalk. And because they dig into the stem of the plant, it is difficult to notice them. It is only on close inspection that you realise almost the entire plant has been destroyed” said Chimenya Phiri, Malawian farmer, reported BBC News on February 14th.


Armyworm – www.phys.org

South Africa’s agriculture ministry said little was known about how the armyworms arrived or what their long-term effects would be; “It may become a migratory pest similarly to the African armyworm and may migrate in large numbers from one area to another, causing great damage,” reported UK-based the Guardian.

“If it is a small level of the worms, it’s easy to control, using pesticides. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to control it, so they will have to use different methods – including sometimes burning the crops,” said Phiri.

Zimbabwe’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Davis Marapira said that the pest had been detected in all of the country’s 10 provinces.

The FAO, which is hosting the Harare meeting, said armyworm outbreaks combined with current locust problems “could be catastrophic” as southern Africa has yet to recover from droughts caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon.

Zambia reported that almost 90,000 hectares of maize have been affected. In Malawi, some 17,000 hectares have so far been affected. In Namibia approximately 50,000 hectares of maize and millet has been damaged, and in Zimbabwe up to 130,000 hectares could be affected.

The FAO said it had initiated the process of procuring pheromone insect lure traps, which are used for capturing armyworm and monitoring their spread.

(© AFP 14/2 2017; PANA, Lusaka 16/2)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

RWANDA: Food Security Fears
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21568A–21568C

Drought and Hunger
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21563A–21563C

Africa’s Pulse – Agriculture Could Be The Key
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21424A–21424B.

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