Killing children with intellectual and physical disabilities
Many cultures in Africa perceive children with intellectual and physical disabilities, including Down Syndrome, as evil. This belief has resulted in the death of many children who are born with disabilities. In Sierra Leone, children with Down Syndrome are called ‘devil children’ and are denounced because it is believed that they bring bad luck to their families. These children are consequently removed from the community with a ritual.
This occurrence is not different from what happens in other parts of Africa. In South Africa, they are seen as cursed and mothers of such children are goaded to throw them away. Similarly, in Uganda and Tanzania, babies with the condition are mostly abandoned or killed.
Similar beliefs about children with congenital defects are held by other cultures in Africa. Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas filmed a documentary about the killing of “spirit children” in Northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin and Nigeria in 2013.
When a mother gives birth to a child with such disabilities, the child is accused of being the cause of every misfortune that has befallen the family. Families with such children consult soothsayers, who would confirm whether the child is indeed a messenger of the spirit or not, without necessarily seeing the child. The soothsayer would then prepare a concoction and force feed the children with it, which more often than not result in death.
This practice emerged as a result of poverty. Many communities in the north are mostly peasants who find taking care of such children a burden and so they try to get rid of them with such practice. With time, many children with Down Syndrome have disappeared with such practices.
Africans need to be educated on the occurrence of abnormality and how best to care for them. Killing such children is cruel and they need to be saved from this inhumane practice.