Spirit Child

2013, Crime  -   21 Comments
Ratings: 7.78/10 from 23 users.

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.

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21 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Ceci

    I was going to share my actual feedback. Then I read Ozzie. I prefer to converse with intellectual people.

  2. Ardi

    Please, if I am a child who will be killed or abused due to practices by another culture I ask other nations to interfere and save me. We should not view the world as segregated communities. We are one.

  3. Ozzie

    Backward race of people, nothing more to be said
    Got to love the child murders laughter about the whole ordeal

  4. Gadea

    Africans have been around a lot longer than Whites.
    Africans can handle their business on their own.
    If African feel, this is the right way to treat their disabled African
    children, that's is their business.

  5. Schwoggle

    Why should so called "civilized" people from so called "advanced societies" think that they should teach the poor, "ignorant, uncivilized" people to copy them?

    Have these paragons of societies made a success of the way their populations live their lives in those societies?

    And having made such a disaster of training their citizens to live a certain way of life they peddle their badly flawed systems around the world teaching their various religions and behaviors to unsuspecting people and peoples who had their own mores and cultures, poor things.

    Oh, the terrible arrogance of these do-gooders!

  6. Harry Nutzack

    "we told the child it was medicine for malaria"... there is actually the biggest "crime" of these actions, as it would cause ANY form of distribution of medicine to be viewed with suspicion (by child and adult alike). the real weapon needed against such practices is EDUCATION. bust all the "concoction men" you can, it will make little difference if the population is still ignorant enough to believe this fairy tale of death. just another example of "ancient wisdom" being the MOST harmful thing possible. teachers and water pumps would appear to be the best aid for much of africa.

    1. oQ

      I agree that educating people is what would abolish these practices , but how fast can you educate a population of 1 billion people (whole of Africa) of which almost half live in conditions where education (or even just information) is not available to them other than through religious groups who have a personal motive?

    2. Harry Nutzack

      assuming the world actually took a real interest in it, a decade. considering that 2 centuries or more have been spent insuring maximum ignorance there, i would say that is most timely a "solution". of course, as increasing ignorance everywhere appears to be a priority, i realize this is indeed a fantasy, and not much else. trading their fairy tales of death for our preferred variety is, of course, no solution whatsoever.

    3. oQ

      Then you got you answer, the whole world needs to change in synchronicity .... and i believe it is. Just like ourself, each of us is improving in our own need, very slowly.

      Those countries (and inhabitants) who have modernized and acquired apparent wealth (or debt) are impatient to see the rest of the world follow....and are making damn sure they don't get surpassed...not a chance...ever...or they think.

    4. thinkagainagain

      How many will you educate? You can teach in Africa.

    5. Harry Nutzack

      honestly,i would be perfectly happy to go "hit the bush" and offer what rudimentary help i could. the language barrier would be a serious problem in the areas where i could be of any use though (in that i only speak "american")

    6. Rudy Chato Paul, Sr

      Since when is "american" a "language?"

    7. Harry Nutzack

      technically it is classified as english, yet is as far divergent from the "queen's" variety as brazillian portugese is from that used in portugal. mine is "double hamstrung" by being the variety used by the natives of NYC, further bastardized by over a decade of residence in the borough of staten island (a sub-dialect of "brooklynese" tempered by "central jersey"). add in a peppering of russian, yiddish, some spanish, and "ebonics" and my patois would be reasonably incomprehensible to most not raised in this country (and quite a few who were, judging by how often i need to rephrase for comprehensibility here in south florida).

  7. Bob Trees

    Man these guys work better than the NSA! It was a bit unnerving to watch the “medicine men” examining the real baby. That could have easily gone wrong. Seems like these killings is a rather complicit practice in the different villages. Sad :-((

    Thanks again Al Jazeera for another excellent doc!

  8. oQ

    Many practices need to be abolished in Ghana and other African countries. It will take time as these pratices are rooted in tradition. Medicine men have extreme control over families

    Not easy to be a child or woman in rural Ghana, in fact it's not easy for anyone.

    "For example, in Ghana, in Kwahu district, for every traditional practitioner there are 224 people, against one university trained doctor for nearly 21,000". wiki

    1. a_no_n

      White people going over there and dictating what they ought to do it what has stopped them from being able to progress in the first place. Most of the people who still adhere to this superstition are inspired to their actions by Baptist preachers, not stereotypical pagans as the description of this documentary quite misleadingly suggests!
      Education is the only way of eliminating such ridiculousness from society.

    2. oQ

      White people judging from afar have not helped either.

    3. dean

      I think any white people going over their now will not be the Baptist preachers of old.

    4. oQ

      Most buses in the city of Accra has an African baptist minister standing in the front preaching and then asking for money. They have been blindly trained for years and the training continues as religion slacks off in other countries around the world.
      The church will find it's prey where it can.


    5. a_no_n

      no they're businessmen...somehow that doesn't seem much better.

    6. dean

      fair point