Unicef is noticing an alarming trend in Africa--more and more children are being accused of witchcraft.
A new Unicef report warns that children accused of being witches - some as young as eight - have been been burned, beaten and even killed as punishment.Among those at risk are kids who are already vulnerable for other reasons--orphans, the disabled, homeless and albinos (in many African countries, albinos are often killed so their body parts can be used by witch doctors).
The agency says the rise in vulnerable children being abused in this way is linked to greater urbanisation in the continent and disruption caused by war.
The growing economic burden of raising children is also thought to be a factor.
I mentioned this back in May, when Helen Ukapbio, a Nigerian evangelist whose teachings have been blamed for thousands of children in her country being tortured or thrown out of their own houses. However, if Unicef is to be believed, this isn't just a problem. It's an epidemic.
The full report makes for horrifying reading. Among other things, those suspected of witchcraft often have gasoline poured into their eyes or ears to drive out the "evil spirits."
According to the report, children are often tortured into confessing that the accusations are true.
The “spiritual” treatment can only begin once the child has confessed. The confession is often obtained under duress or violence, as one accused of witchcraft, Bruno, explains:In many cases, the price for such treatment can be way beyond what most people can pay, especially considering that many African currencies are badly inflated. And more often than not, the evangelists get filthy rich off these fees. Sound familiar?
For three days we were not allowed to eat or drink. On the fourth day, the prophet put our hands above a candle to make us confess. So I admitted the accusations and the harsh treatment stopped. Those who didn’t confess were threatened with whipping.
Needless to say, the trauma inflicted on these kids is beyond words. According to Joaquim Theis, Unicef's head of child protection for west and central Africa, his office is overwhelmed with having to reintegrate these kids into society.
And yet, some of these pastors, including Ukapbio, are extremely popular here in the States. Disgraceful.