Peter Mutharika, President of Malawi. Picture: LUCAS JACKSON/ REUTERS
Peter Mutharika, President of Malawi. Picture: LUCAS JACKSON/ REUTERS

Malawi is grappling with a vampire problem — specifically, bands of murderous vigilantes who have killed seven people in recent weeks, acting on suspicions that they had tried to obtain human blood to drink in witchcraft rituals.

This is not the first time rumours of vampire activity have sowed havoc in the country.

In response to the latest incidents, the UN has pulled its staff from the south of the country where the killings have taken place, and the US has withdrawn a Peace Corp team that was active in the area.

Malawian President Peter Mutharika has said there will be a thorough investigation.

Meanwhile, a 5pm-7am curfew is in force.

Mulanje, towards the south of Malawi, on the border with Mozambique, is the centre of the attacks, though three other districts have also been affected.

Similar rumours of vampires swept southern Malawi in 2002.

Those rumours also led to vigilante killings, and strangers especially were suspected of being involved in witchcraft.

There was a political twist, in the form of rumours that the government was colluding with aid agencies, swapping blood for food, the BBC reported at the time.

Then-president Bakili Muluzi accused the opposition of spreading those rumours.

The UN Department on Safety and Security (UNDSS) said the current rumours appeared to have originated in Mozambique but it was unclear what sparked them.

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

AFP and Reuters

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