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Spirit Child
For centuries, some West African communities have branded children born deformed or with disabilities as evil spirits. They are seen as a drain on limited resources, and so “medicine men” are often asked to perform rituals and prepare poisonous concoctions to kill them. Thousands of defenseless children have been murdered in this way.

Food is scarce there. Even children must work for their family to eat. Living on the edge of survival, the birth of a disabled child is greatly feared. It’s seen as a terrible burden on the family, an extra mouth to feed. The child won’t be able to help in the field, and neither will its mother, who will have to devote precious time to its care.

Out of this fear and ancient tradition has grown. They believe that such a child is a spirit child, an evil presence that must be destroyed before it threatens the survival of the family. It doesn’t even need to be disabled. Any child in a family where things are going wrong can be branded as evil. And when this happens, elders in the community, known as concoction men, are called in to poison the child.

Local authorities have often used dialogue to talk to community members to stop this practice. Advocacy has been successful to some extent, but has not been able to eradicate this from the community. There isn’t any record of anyone ever being arrested for what can only be described as a dreadful crime.

Reporter’s plan is to find some concoction men, to invent a so-called problem child and see if they will diagnose it as an evil spirit. Then he aims to catch them in the act of trying to poison it. A similar looking dummy of a child was made from silicone by a movie props company in London.