The United Nations (UN) has withdrawn its workers for their safety from Mulanje and Phalombe districts in the southern region due to fears of vampires which has inspired mob violence has left at least six dead since mid-September.
“These districts have severely been affected by the ongoing stories of blood sucking and possible existence of vampires,” acting UN Resident Coordinator Florence Rolle said in a statement seen by Nyasa Times.
Villagers in the two districts have been searching for alleged vampires.
The U.N. Department on Safety and Security (UNDSS) said they are monitoring the situation closely and will work to “ensure all affected U.N. staff are back in the field as soon as possible.”
Despite their frequent appearances in popular culture, there is no evidence vampires actually exist. But the widespread belief in witchcraft in Malawi perpetuates paranoia over vampirism.
Belief in witchcraft in Malawi—one of the world’s poorest countries—has also led to frequent violence against albinos, a trend Amnesty International recently described as a “human rights crisis.”
It is unclear how many UN staff had been relocated as a result of the violence thus far.
The report recommended a “temporary suspension of UN activities in the area until the situation is normalized,” adding that the rumors allegedly began in neighboring Mozambique.
Minister of Information and Communications, Nicolas Dausi, and Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Henry Mussa, described the attacks as ‘mythical’ calling for concerted effort to deal with the situation.
The two ministers also appealed to donors not to rush to withdraw their workers in affected areas saying the situation is under control.
Dausi particularly sent a message to development partners that they should learn to inform government before writing their governments about the situation in the country.
“We are trying all we can to ensure the ituation is normalised,” said Dausi on Capital Radio on Monday.
“Malawi government will make sure it protects and provide safety and security to every person there [Mulanje and Phalombe],” he added.
Government say the way the issue is being portrayed may affect tourism which contributes significantly to the economy.