Earlier this month, the United Nations and the US Peace Corps withdrew staff from several districts in Malawi, due to the threat of lynchings sparked by the fear of vampires. The US State Department issued a warning in September after a number of foreign nationals were injured in the violence (see below).

The UN has pulled back some staff working in Phalombe and Mulanje, while the Peace Corps temporarily suspended deployments to Chiradzulo, Thyolo, Phalombe, and Mulanje districts.

A report from the UN Department on Safety and Security stated that ‘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 road blocks in the district, raising security concerns.

In once of the incidents, two people travelling to pray were beaten to death by villagers who suspected the pair were vampires. In another, villagers targeted a mentally disabled man ‘because they thought he was a vampire “pretending to be insane.”This piece from UN Dispatch offers some background on a previous wave of mob violence, when two of the victims were Roman Catholic Priests visiting the area, and some background to the current situation. Well worth a read.

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From the US State Department  –

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Attacks On and Around Mt. Mulanje

The Malawi Police Service reports that there have been at least two separate attacks on visitors to the Mount Mulanje area this past weekend (September 16-17) by local residents.  These attacks appear to be motivated by a persistent rumor which developed over the weekend describing the potential for attacks by vampires or bloodsuckers in the area.  The resulting attacks by residents against visitors to the area have resulted in injuries and, in one instance, the murders of two Malawian citizens.   These attacks are not specifically targeting U.S. citizens, but foreign nationals are among the injured.  The Malawi Police Service has issued a public statement debunking the rumor of “Human Bloodsuckers” in the Mount Mulanje area as a hoax.  However, tensions remain high.  The U.S. Embassy has advised its employees to exercise caution when travelling in the area and we strongly recommend all U.S. citizens do the same.

Please review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates.  Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Malawi enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program(STEP).  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution.  Read the Country Specific Information for Malawi.  For additional information, refer to the “Traveler’s Checklist” on the State Department’s website.

Contact the U.S. embassy for up-to-date information on travel restrictions.  You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to have travel information at your fingertips.

The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe is located at on Kenyatta Drive, Area 40, Plot 24, Lilongwe 3, and is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Telephone 1-733-166.  If you are a U.S. citizen in need of urgent assistance outside of business hours, the emergency after-hours number for the U.S. Embassy is 01-773-166, ext. 3443 (if in Malawi) or 011-265-1-773-166, ext. 3443 (if in the U.S.).  Please state that you are a U.S. Citizen, your name, your passport number, and the type of emergency that you are facing. The security personnel will then forward your call to the appropriate person to assist you.

In the event that the land line is malfunctioning, please call the following mobile number 0999-591-024 and 0888-734-826 (if in Malawi) or 011-265-999-591-024 and 011-265-888-734-826 (if in the U.S.).

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