Trigger Warning: The following content may be inappropriate or disturbing to some readers.
Over the past few years, O.U.R. has helped with cases concerning a shocking and long-standing practice that consistently occurs in some parts of Africa as well as a few other regions around the globe: —child sacrifice.
While child sacrifice takes different forms, this practice echoes that of child sex trafficking as children are violated for the use of their bodies. This ritualistic practice is driven by superstition and religious beliefs and varies from country to country.
In parts of East Africa it is mostly carried out by witch doctors, sometimes presenting as “traditional healers”, who mutilate children for the purpose of using their blood, body parts, or organs for ritual sacrifice. Children are trafficked by witch doctors and sometimes even parents. Financiers will pay witch doctors for the sacrifice in order to receive prosperity or good luck. This practice is prevalent during festive seasons, elections where candidates think it will bring good luck, or even during the construction of new buildings where they believe blood sprinkled on the foundation will make it safe and successful.
These practices lead to long-term physical and emotional pain, physical injuries, disabilities, and sometimes even the death of the child.
From the Kids Rights 2014 Report on Child Sacrifice:
“Most children are not given up willingly for sacrifice by their parents or caretakers. Instead, they simply go missing, abducted by the witch doctor or by his or her associate. The sacrificial ritual is not discovered until the body is found in a desolate place, or the child survives the sacrifice. Both boys and girls are attacked for their body parts; there is no clear gender preference”(Kids Rights, 2014.)
Experts indicate that children experiencing poverty are more likely targets of these practices (Kids Rights, 2014.) Accurate statistics are difficult to measure due to lack of effective reporting practices and resistance for victims and families to report to law enforcement. In recent years, it was reported that child sacrifice was a growing problem in some parts of East Africa. However, “most cases do not find their way to police; the report notes that in 2009, out of 123 missing persons, 90 (73%) were children suspected to have become victims of human sacrifice” (Kids Rights, 2014).
Government officials and other organizations have been working to establish laws like The Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice Act in 2021, which was officially signed into law by the President of Uganda on the 14th of July 2021. This act defines the penalties and act of child sacrifice as well as creating standard reporting practices.
Survivors of child sacrifice face immense social, emotional, and physical challenges on their healing journey. O.U.R. Aftercare is working on individualized, trauma-informed care for these survivors. Some of the care includes:
Hydrotherapy to relieve physical pain and trauma
Sports therapy to help survivors get active and be outdoors
Balanced meals to help them physically recover and thrive (as many survivors come from areas where food is scarce)
Healing nature experiences like zoos, lakes, and national parks to help survivors process traumatic events and work through relapses.
Art therapy as a means to express creativity for healing
Family tracing, sensitivity training and reintegration where possible
Parenting classes and instruction on caring for a child with injuries sustained from witch doctor
Play therapy through music and dance
O.U.R. will continue to work with survivors in the area and develop relationships with those on the front lines of the fight against child sacrifice. The Ugandan police take an active role in fighting human trafficking and child sacrifice and we are honored to collaborate with them. We need your help to fight child sacrifice and other forms of trafficking. O.U.R. International Operations and Law Enforcement Support is made possible by donors like you. Get involved at www.ourrescue.org/donate.
To learn more about the fight against child sacrifice, read the Kids Report on Child Sacrifice here.