Gender-based violence against women and girls escalated. Prosecutions for murder and other violent attacks against persons with albinism were continually delayed. Allegations of corruption involving the use of Covid-19 funds, and vaccination shortages undermined the right to health. Despite steps to decongest prisons, they remained overcrowded, and conditions were poor. The Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional.
Two million people in rural areas and 610,000 people in the cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba faced acute food insecurity.
Violence against women
Despite numerous interventions to curb violence against women, particularly in schools, cases of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, predominantly against women and girls, escalated. The police recorded around 250 such cases each month.
Persons with albinism
Persons with albinism were murdered and faced other violent attacks and mutilations. In February, unidentified men murdered Dayton Saidi in Mangochi; in the same month, unidentified assailants attempted to abduct a 12-year-old girl in Machinga. The body of Ian Muhamba, aged 20, was found in August in Blantyre. Two suspects were arrested for his killing. Prosecutions against alleged perpetrators of such crimes were continually delayed.
Right to health
Reported cases of corruption impacted people’s ability to access health services. Senior government officials were implicated in the mismanagement of Covid-19 funds. An audit report on Covid-19 funds during 2020 was commissioned in February 2021 and published in April. It revealed that government officials and private sector employees had abused about US$1.3 million of the funds. In April, police arrested 64 people for alleged misuse of Covid-19 funds, and the president fired the labour minister following his indictment on mismanagement of such funds.
The vaccination roll-out began in March with 512,000 doses. In May, the World Bank approved a US$30 million grant to help Malawi acquire more vaccines. Thousands of people were unable to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations when, in June, health authorities closed over half the country’s vaccination centres because of shortages. By August, around 455,000 people had received their first dose, and at least 139,000 had been fully vaccinated.
Prisons were chronically overcrowded and conditions were poor; facilities were dilapidated and there was insufficient access to basic services. By April, overcrowding fell from 260% of prison capacity to 186% due to the Chilungamo Programme (an initiative to improve justice and accountability in the country). However, in Chichiri prison, the largest in the Southern Region, cells with a 60-person capacity continued to hold over 200 men.
In April, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional and contrary to the right to life guaranteed under the Constitution. The Court ordered the re-sentencing of all convicts facing execution. However, following the retirement of Chief Justice Dunstain Mwaungulu in August, the remaining judges issued what they called a perfected judgment, overturning the declaration that the death penalty was unconstitutional.