As the bloodsuckers myth continues claiming lives of innocent people and destroying properties of people in Mulanje, Phalombe and Chiradzuru district, the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) has finally come up with its findings, conclusions as well as recommendations on the matter, Maravi Post has established.
The UNDSS this week released its report on the matter, which has been drafted and distributed:
Phalombe and Mulanje districts are situated along the international boundary with Mozambique.
These districts have a lot of programs and projects which are either being supported or implemented by UN Agencies especially World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture 0rganization (FAO), UNDP and International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGO) among
However, these districts have severely been affected by the ongoing stories of blood sucking and possible existence of vampires which has resulted into some NGOs pulling out their personnel and temporarily suspending their programmes.
It is alleged that these rumours originated from the neighboring Mozambique and spread across the borders to the two districts.
Several cases have been reported in the area including deaths of five people who were perceived to be blood suckers by the mere fact that they were strangers to the area.
It is against this background that UNDSS went to meet the relevant authorities in the areas to get first-hand information of the situation.
This report will give key findings, background to the rumours, analysis of the whole situation in
Mulanje and recommendations to temporarily relocate UN personnel to WFP Sub Office in
Blantyre and temporary suspension of UN activities in the area until the situation is normalized.
• The killing of three people on 16th September 2017 at Tradtional Authority MabukaMkthambi by angry mob for suspecting them to be blood suckers because they are strangers in the area;
• The stoning of two ambulances on 20th September 2017 (one for Phalombe District Hospital and Mbiza Health center) for suspicion that they were transporting blood suckers;
• In Nsanje, on 28th September 2017, Village Headman Chizinga of Traditional Authority Mlolo was killed for allegedly being suspected of sheltering blood suckers in his house.
• The killing of two people on 1st October 2017 who went for prayers in the mountain and found themselves in the hands of angry villages who stoned and burned them to death;
• The torching of Group Village Headman (GVH) Khatingo of Chilinga TA Nazombe for suspicion that he was keeping blood suckers in his house;
• Angry mob attacked the house of GVH Degadega of TA Khulambe and a community policing member on suspicion of shielding blood suckers;
• Angry mob mounting road blocks on main roads to hunt for blood suckers;
UNDSS UN Depa r tmen t o f Safety and Security MALAWI
P r o t e c t i n g t h e p e o p l e w h o w o r k f o r a b e t t e r w o r l d
An attack on National Registration officials on 3rd October 2017 for suspicion that the biometric machine is being used to suck their blood.
• On 3rd October 2017, Olendo Chaponda was attacked at his house by an angry mob who suspected him of sheltering blood suckers and later stole several items at his house. The police arrested 7 suspects.
• WFP personnel in Mulanje on 4th October 2017 went to a school for their usual programmes in the area, school children started surrounding them that they are blood suckers. Saying that the aerial on the vehicle is used to such blood through magic.
• The suspicion by the villagers that Cash Transfer mobile phones being used as means to suck their blood.
• Villager now sleeping outside their houses afraid of being blood sucked in their houses;
It has been noted that there are so many myths surrounding the rumors of bloodsuckers of which some say they originated from Mozambique.
It is alleged that the President of Mozambique borrowed some funds to conduct campaigns, and that he has sent out his men to collect human blood for sale in view of paying back the funds.
Some quarters are claiming that the blood suckers have been sent by donors following the cash transfer program which CSOs embarked
on during Level 3 emergency in the country.
Below are triggering factors affecting the myth:
• Illiteracy coupled with idle minds is the main source of the problem. High unemployment and poverty in the areas makes people angry and take the law into their own hands because
• Poor economic stand amongst the general population in the area;
• Despite that chiefs being informed to help in disseminating messages against the possible existence of these rumours, it appears the message is not sinking in the populace;
• Some chiefs are not courageous enough to advise their people the truth behind the rumours because they are afraid to become victims of mob justice;
• There is no evidence of anyone being drained blood from all health centers in Phalombe and Mulanje. Although about seven villagers came forward alleging to have been blood sucked. They were taken to the hospital for observation /testing where it was established
that it was not true;
• People are forced to leave their homes and sleep outside leaving their houses unsecure and exposing adolescent girls to all sorts of sexual abuse which will trigger the rise of HIV/AIDS which is already high in the area;
• The angry community target the rich and steal or damage their properties. They use these
tactics to distract people so that they can steal from their houses. A case in point is of GVH Khatingo whose maize was stolen during the fracas.
• It is feared that if these rumours are not controlled, they will spread to other districts.
ACTION TAKEN BY AUTHORITIES IN THE DISTRICTS:
The District Commissioners and community leaders, the Police, Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and other stakeholders including religious groups in both Mulanje and Phalombe District
Council called for emergency meetings to map the way forward on installed fears. The following
actions have been taken so far:
• The Inspector General of Police visited the areas to talk to the people, requesting them to not take the law into their own hands but handover all suspects to the police for questioning.
• Meetings with chiefs, councilors and MPs informing them to inform their subjects that the rumours are false;
• Embarked in inter-denominational prayers (one took place on 6th October 2017 at the boarder with Minister of Home Affairs and the District Commissioner (Dc) for Mulanje was present and another prayer meeting will take place on 7th October 2017 at Mulanje
• About 8 suspects of such violence are in Police custody waiting to appear before the courts to answer charges of assaults, and manslaughter.
• Police have intensified patrols in both districts and engaging with community policing members to sensitize villagers that this is not true.
• The DC has issued an advisory that early hours and late-night travel be restricted to between 0700 to 1700 hours. This means that even ambulances will not be dispatched to fetch the sick in the villages at night.
• Additional structures such as churches and mosques are now being used for information dissemination.
The situation is still unstable and precautionary measure should be taken on all field mission in the area until the message sinks into the minds of the general population.
Adverse implementation of activities as community members continue to suspect any stranger who come into their community as they believe they are behind the bloodsucking.
Although the threat of these attacks is not directly targeting the UN personnel and considering that the situation is still volatile, there is uncertainty as to when these people might strike again.
The following mitigation measures should be considered to lower the risk:
• All UN personnel working in the affected areas (Phalombe and Mulanje) should be relocated to Blantyre Sub Office and monitor their activities remotely with their implementing partners on the ground until the situation normalizes;
• All missions going to the affected areas (unless emergencies) should be temporarily suspended or transfer the risk to the implementing partners on the ground until the situation is back to normal;
• Security clearance and travel advisory should be sought through the Security Advisor and the Area Security Coordinator (ASC) who will alert the relevant security authorities in the area if there is a dire need to go;
• UNDSS/ASC will work hand in hand with all stake holders in the area and update accordingly.