Malawi police have been instructed to shoot anyone found attacking albinos in the country. The decision was made in a bid to curb albino killings, widespread in Malawi and other African countries such as Mali, Burundi and Tanzania.
Albinism is a genetically inherited condition that prevents the body from producing melanin, the pigment that colours skin, hair and eyes. In some African countries, albinos are not regarded as humans and they are killed as their body parts are considered essential ingredients for black magic potions.
"Shoot every criminal who is violent when caught red-handed abducting people with albinism," Malawi's Inspector General of Police Lexen Kachama was quoted by Reuters as saying.
"We cannot just watch while our friends with albinism are being killed like animals every day .. We do realise that these people are ruthless, have no mercy and therefore they need to be treated just like that."
The decision followed a UN statement in which it condemned the killing of albinos and warned there was a sharp increase in the murders. In January 2015, Tanzania banned witch doctors, who are accused of enhancing albino discrimination by convincing people albinos' body parts must be used to make charms and bring good luck. The country also sentenced four people to death for killing an albino woman.
Coumba Makalou Keita, executive director of the Mali-based Salif Keita Global Foundation, which works to achieve fair treatment and social integration of people with albinism, lack of education and misconceptions must be addressed to successfully tackle the persecution of albinos.
"Many people believe that albinism is a spiritual problem and not a genetic disorder. They believe that albinism can be separated from the body and there is a value in the albinos' blood," she told IBTimesUK.
"Some people call albinos 'walking ghosts' as they think that they don't really die, so they cannot really be killed. That's the justification for their murders. Killing albinos is not seen as homicide. Education is the key to defeat stigmatisation. People who are educated are not going to kill albinos because they understand that they were simply born with a genetic condition."