Channel 4 returns to Africa’s witch children

In 2008 a Bafta and Emmy Award-winning Dispatches told the story of how children in Africa’s Niger Delta were being denounced by Christian pastors as witches and wizards and then killed, tortured or abandoned by their own families.

The film, which prompted international outrage against a practice conducted in the name of Jesus, forced the Nigerian authorities and the UN to act.

Child rights legislation came into force making it illegal to brand children as witches and some pastors were arrested. Financial support also poured in to assist a small British charity (Stepping Stones Nigeria) providing the only safe refuge for hundreds of youngsters attacked after claims that they were possessed by the Devil.
In Return to Africa’s Witch Children, Dispatches reveals what happened to some of the children and church leaders who originally featured, and discovers that even now children as young as two are still being stigmatised as witches and treated as outcasts.

Gary Foxcroft of Lancaster-based charity Stepping Stones Nigeria also returns to Nigeria and discovers that since his last visit the rescue centre that houses many of these children was the target of an attack. He also learns that the number of children living there has in fact risen.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Ellin is one such child. She was found at the side of the road, her body having been severely burnt with boiling water. Nwanakwo Udo Edet, around eight years old, wasn’t so fortunate. He had acid poured over him after being labelled a wizard and later died.

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