Malawi: Chief Admits Discriminating People Based On HIV Status

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Salima, April 17, 2019. Group Village Headman (GVH) Jiamusi, from Traditional Authority (TA) Pemba has admitted that for a long time he has been sidelining and denying his subjects to access social support programmes if they declare to be HIV.

The Chief made the revelation to Malawi News Agency (MANA) on Tuesday on the sidelines of an interface meeting between duty bearers and citizenry, which was organized by human rights campaigners under the banner of Our Bodies, Our life which comprise of Coalition of Women Living with HIV, Cowhla and Manerera+.

In his confession, the Chief said that because of ignorance, he snatched a piece of land from Agnes Hussein, 40 year old mother of five, because she had declared her status.

"It was out of ignorance that when I learnt that she had declared that she was found with the HIV virus I presume that she was weak and could not use the land for growing crops, I decided to give the land to my relations who I assume had strength to utilize the land," he admitted.

The Chief said that he thought HIV positive people do not deserve land or to benefit from social protection projects such as MASAF 4, and Public Works.

In another interview, Hussein said she tested HIV positive in 2009 and in 2016 her health deteriorated and it was at that period when the GVH snatched her piece of land.

"When my health deteriorated I didn't cultivate my maize field for two seasons and that was the time when the GVH took his action and advised me to stop using the land," she claimed.

Hussein said the action affected her as she depended on the piece of land to grow food crops.

"We are peasant farmers and land is a critical thing, so when I lost that land it was like my life was taken, I could not produce my own food even when my health started to stabilize," she said.

Hussein said that apart from snatching her land the chief through the development structure of the Village Development Committee (VDC) have continuously avoided including her in social support programs such as the just ended distribution of free maize to families facing food shortages.

Chair of the VDC, Jawadu Chimbalanga confessed that as Chairperson their structure was of the view that poor people who are affected by HIV did not deserve to participate in social support programs.

"It is true we have not being selecting her to benefit because we used to feel that she is not fit to do the work," he said.

Senior Nutrition and HIV Officer, Lucious Njovu said that his office is enable to trace signs of stigma and discrimination which need to be reduced within government development programmes.

"We cannot do much apart from advising the chiefs and their structures to stop sideling the affected people, but the rest is a human rights matter which can be best dealt by Human Rights bodies," he pointed out.

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