Minister Mtambo courts herbalists to collaborate on Covid-19

The Minister of Civic Education and National Unity Timothy Pagonachi Mtambo has asked herbalists to join the government in demystifying myths surrounding the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine and persons with albinism.

Mtambo has also courted traditional healers to champion the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.

Mtambo–My appeal to you all is to go out there and get the vaccine–Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Civic Education and National Unity

At the height of attacks, abductions and/or killings of persons with albinism in Malawi, some the people suspects named herbalists as the ones who sent them to commit the crimes in order to extract body tissues of persons with albinism for use in making charms.

And speaking on Tuesday at Chikho Hotel in Kasungu during the workshop with Herbalist Association of Malawi and officials from the Ministry of Health, Mtambo said it is sad that persons with albinism continue suffering various human rights violations owing to enduring and misleading misconceptions, and superstitious beliefs systems on albinism.

Senior Chief Kaomba was among the participants at the workshop

“People with albinism have been harassed, discriminated against, shunned, bullied, tormented, tortured and murdered in various parts of our country. This suffering is due to some unfounded beliefs amongst us,” he said.

“Albinism is one of the least understood conditions around the world. There is limited knowledge about albinism, and there is need to continue educating people on albinism to demystify and debunk deep-seated misconceptions and superstitious beliefs on the condition,” added the minister.

Mtambo said some of the common myths surrounding albinism include: albinism is a curse/bad omen or a punishment and that sex with people with albinism is a cure for HIV and Aids, which has resulted in the rape of women and girls with albinism in parts of Africa.

“People with albinism do not possess any special powers or healing powers. Any form of ritual rape or unprotected sex with women/girls with albinism can only lead to further spread of HIV and Aids,” he emphasized.

On Covid-19 vaccine, Mtambo noted that since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about the disease itself and that now people are creating stories about the vaccine that has been developed to contain the pandemic.

The minister dismissed as a myth an assertion that vaccines are unsafe and normal safety protocols have been circumvented to fast track their authorisation for use.

He said the world developed the vaccines fast because scientists and governments collaborated in a manner that has never been achieved before and pooled resources and information together to ensure that everyone can contribute to the knowledge.

Mtambo further dismissed as a lie an assertion that the vaccine will change people’s DNA when, actually, the vaccines work by stimulating the body the same way the virus would if someone were infected.

“My appeal, therefore, to you all is to go out there and get the vaccine. Go and encourage your people to get the jab, it is the only sure way to protect you and your loved ones from this deadly virus,” he said.

Commenting on GBV, the minister disclosed that Malawi ranks 173 out of 188 on the UN’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) and has the eighth highest child marriage rate in the world.

He said to counteract these disparities, Malawi needs to give women and girls more opportunities by integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment into all our development efforts.

“In order for us to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies, women and girls must be empowered. As a community our development mission should be a community in which women, men, girls and boys enjoy equal economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights and are all empowered to secure better lives for themselves, their families and their communities,” said Mtambo.

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