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Fighting stigma in Malawi

Imagine having to face fear and persecution just to find water. Unfortunately, this is a reality for Eneless and Onisha, two sisters from Malawi who have albinism.

In parts of Malawi, people are still superstitious about albinism. Some believe that the body parts of people with albinism can be powerful ingredients in rituals and, as a result, those with the condition are vulnerable to abduction and murder. In Phalombe District, 74 people have albinism, and four have been killed.

Barriers to water

Eneless and Onisha’s village lacked a water supply so they had to take a 1.5km journey to fetch water from an unclean well. A well with clean, safe water was 2.5km away, but because of the danger of being abducted or killed, the sisters couldn’t risk the journey.

The dangers the girls faced also affected their education. They were often late to or missed classes altogether because they had to wait until it was light enough to make the journey to the well. Because they missed so much work, they had to repeat levels at school.

The flow-on effect

By working with our local partner, United Purpose, and the local district council, we restored a clean water supply directly to the village. Now the girls have water close to their house and no longer have to make a long and risky journey. The girls also don’t have to miss school and can keep up with their lessons.

“With the rehabilitated tap, I can get to school,” said Eneless. “I have improved and I no longer repeat classes.”

The girls’ mother, Alice, also has greater peace of mind.

“I used to fear for my children’s lives before the tap was rehabilitated,” said Alice. “I am very happy that my two little girls are safe.”

Changing attitudes

United Purpose has been working with local police to investigate and document cases of abduction or murder of people with albinism. They also work with local councils to destroy the stigma around people with albinism, and create a safer and more equal community for all.

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