Written by Society of Medical Doctors
The Society of Medical Doctors is a professional grouping whose aim is to provide a vehicle through which medical doctors in Malawi can support the government and other key players improve the quality and delivery of health services in the country. The society; therefore, is a platform for doctors to engage and advocate for better preventive and curative interventions on behalf of all people of Malawi through sound medical practice. The Society of Medical Doctors’ vision is a healthy and productive Malawi Nation eventuated by excellence in the medical profession.
The Society is saddened by the recent and ongoing rumours of blood sucking vampires in some districts in the southern region of Malawi. It is disheartening to note that people are being assaulted and some have since been killed including a mental health patient in Blantyre for being suspected of being a blood sucker. Further to this, property has been vandalized and free movement of people in the breadth and length of Malawi is being restricted. The Society commends all health workers in the affected areas who despite the risks to their lives and property they have continued to serve in their respective communities. We salute you!
EVIDENCE OF BLOOD SUCKING
The Society has gathered no evidence from the health facilities in the affected districts that any one has adequate clinical evidence to support any of the many claims to date. All so called victims have had normal blood parameters.
The initial isolated incidents may have had elements of Shared Delusion Disorder. This is when a dominant individual who is deluded and can have those following him believe and internalize his delusions. Shared delusion is usually confined to a locality.
In view of the magnitude of the problem in that it is affecting many districts and the readiness of many Malawians to internalize these beliefs this presentation would constitute that of Mass Hysteria.
It is the considered view of the Society that such blood suckers do not exist! This is purely Mass Hysteria.
EFFECTS ON HEALTH WORKERS
The Society is further disturbed by the reports of thuggery that has resulted into some health workers being attacked for carrying a stethoscope, and some have had unfortunate incidences of having their vehicles smashed, and in others having their possessions taken off them for being suspected of being blood suckers, and or in pursuit of the non-existent suckers. Some ambulances have also been attacked whilst being used to ferry patients to and or from hospital. This is despicable and we condemn all these and all similar acts of barbarism on innocent people unreservedly and in the strongest language possible.
No health worker can suck blood with a stethoscope, nor with a power bank. In fact no one else can!
We are also disappointed with how some of the mainstream and social media have reported on the issue. There has been irresponsible sensationalisation of rumours of blood sucking vampires. This has the potency of perpetuating fear and anxiety in the population, with the exponential negative effects we have seen so far.
EFFECTS ON THE HEALTH SYSTEM
The consequences of these rumours on social and health services are immense. The propagation of these rumours have a potential of denigrating the gains that our nation has made towards improving the health status of our citizenry. The health sector’s ability to offer the routine community health services in these areas has slowed down, the provision of maternal, neonatal, and child health services amongst many other services will dwindle and lastly but in no means least, these rumours are affecting the works of the Malawi Blood Transfusion Services, and with the malaria season around the corner, it is disaster in the making!
ADVICE TO THE PUBLIC AND SOCIETY MEMBERS
In view of the foregoing, and in the interest of protecting its members for the public good, the Society advises its members to ensure that they have adequate security details when travelling from and or to work off hours. We pray that all necessary arms of government will ensure the same across Malawi, especially in the affected districts. We commend the MDF so far for the work well done!
We further beseech the media to report on these rumours responsibly to ensure that there is no unnecessary fear mongering. We are hopeful that the creation of a media taskforce on this issue will bring forth responsible and responsive reporting on the same.
The Society of Medical Doctors is cognizant of the State President’s visits to the affected areas, and his interactions with the ‘victims’. It is however, the Society’s opinion that the State President, HE Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika should in no uncertain terms dissuade people from falsely accusing others of blood sucking. We commend, the State President’s recent speech in Chikhwawa on 21st October, 2017 where amongst others he also bans irresponsible sensationalisation of the issue.
The society is encouraging all who may have a belief that their blood has been sucked to go to hospital for proper assessment and help.
The Society once again requests all government ministries and departments concerned with any of the many façades of the blood sucking vampire(s)’ to do their obligation so that we do not have any more unnecessary loss of lives and property. We also call upon all Civil Society Organisations and all organisations of good will to take part in curbing this massive Mass Hysteria amidst us! We commend those that have so far voiced out messages of hope!
Dr Amos Salimanda Nyaka