In parts of West Africa, when a family is struck by illness, misfortune, poverty or death, all too often it is the youngest, weakest or most vulnerable child who is blamed and singled out as a ‘child witch’
Right now, hundreds of helpless children in the Niger Delta have their lives hanging in the balance: because their families believe they are witches. Accusations of witchcraft are made against children for a number of reasons, but in many cases it happens when a family is struck by misfortune.
Many cultures in West Africa (and other parts of the continent) hold belief and value in superstition and when things go wrong, children are easy, defenceless targets on which to cast blame.
While an accusation of witchcraft is traumatic enough, persecuted children find themselves subjected to a torrent of neglect and brutality and are rapidly outcast from their home, village and community.
The 2008 Channel 4 'Dispatches' documentary, 'Saving Africa's Witch Children', featuring Safe Child Africa (formerly Stepping Stones Nigeria) founder, Gary Foxcroft, provides an indepth look at the often complex and troubling practice of child witchcraft accusations, which is sadly on the increase.
The video link below, taken from the documentary, demonstrates how children accused of witchcraft face a barrage of cruelty, torture and abuse in the form of ceremonies of deliverance and exorcisms, delivered with the intention of 'driving the witch out' of the child. These exorcisms take on many brutal forms, including beatings, starvation, restraint and even forced feeding - to make the child ingest highly toxic, lethal concoctions intended to kill off the evil spirits believed to be controlling the child.
In all their forms, these brutal ceremonies of deliverance serve only to harm the child; causing disfigurement, organ failure, internal bleeding and all too often, death.
If the child does die, it reinforces the belief they were a witch. If the child lives, their choices are dire: stay with the abuser and be subjected to further brutality or flee to the streets, alone. where there is peril and danger at every turn.
Some of these children, are as young as 2 years old.
Safe Child Africa is doing all it can, right now, in the Niger Delta to help children faced with this nightmare. But we need the support of people like you to ensure we can reach more of these children.
We receive no funding or support from either the UK or Nigerian Government and we are entirely dependent on the donations of our generous supporters.
Without our supporters we simply would not be able to deliver the services we do. Please help us to give a future to each and every child accused of witchcraft in the Niger Delta.
If we don’t help these children now, they will never know childhood, they will never know what innocence feels like; they will never be safe.
Updated September 2018