UN moves staff after mobs kill five in Malawi vampire scare

Workers relocated from southern districts hit by vigilante violence that followed narratives of blood sucking and possible vampires

The United Nations has pulled personnel out of two districts in southern Malawi where a vampire scare has triggered mob violence in which at least five people have been killed.

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in rural Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, where many aid agencies and NGOs work. A spate of vigilante violence linked to vampire rumors also erupted in Malawi in 2002.

” These districts have severely been affected by the ongoing stories of blood sucking and possible existence of vampires ,” the UN Department on Safety and Security( UNDSS) said in a security report on the Phalombe and Mulanje districts that was insured by Reuters.

The acting UN resident coordinator, Florence Rolle, said in an emailed response to questions that based on the report” some UN staff have relocated while others are still in the districts depending on locations of their operations “.

” UNDSS is continuing to monitor the situation closely to ensure all affected UN staff are back in the field as soon as possible ,” Rolle said.

Rolle did not say how many employees had been relocated.

The UNDSS report said at least five people had been killed in the area since mid-September by lynch mobs accusing them of vampirism. It said mobs searching for vampires have been mounting roadblocks in the district, creating security concerns.

The Malawian president, Peter Mutharika, said the reports were” distressing and agonising “.

” This growth has been of grave concern to the president and the entire government ,” its term of office said in a statement.

The UNDSS report said the vampirism gossips appear to have originated in neighbouring Mozambique, although it was not clear what had sparked them. It recommended the” temporary suspension of UN activities in the area until the situation is normalized “.

It said some NGOs had pulled personnel from the districts and temporarily suspended their programmes but did not name the organisations.

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