Autism in Liberia

Liberia’s past, present, and future is one that pains us and makes us think about what it means to be non African. A child was accused of being an obstruction to his step-mother’s business extension and progress. The allegations against the child include turning himself into animal and harming things. Because children cannot guard themselves against such allegations coming from adults, they are left susceptible and often designated as witches. But Liberia is not the exception in Africa, as this IRIN story expands. The charges of child witchcraft are on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa supported by urbanization, poverty, conflict and fragmenting communities.This is creating a

Autism in Liberia by Anna Rania Klibi

“multi-crisis” for already susceptible children, says the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

A wide spectrum of children are at danger, including orphans, street-children, albinos, those with physical disabilities such as autism, those with aggressive or solitary temperaments, children who are unusually talented; those who were born untimely or in unusual positions, and twins.

Broadly-speaking, the notion of sorcery can be converted to the ability to damage someone through the use of “mystical power”.

Most of the accused are boys and most aged 8-14, says the report, Children Accused of Witchcraft; an anthropological study of contemporary practices in West Africa. Some of the countries with the highest commonness rates include Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, according to the report.

No comprehensive study has been made to indicate the extent of the phenomenon, says Joachim Theis, UNICEF’s child protection counsellor in West Africa. However, according to discrete studies, 6 thousands children have been accused of witchcraft living in homes in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi in the DRC; MbanzaKongo capital of Zaire Province, Uige and Luanda in northern Angola; and a large number in Akwa Ibom state in southeastern Nigeria.

Charged children end up being attacked, burned, beaten, and sometimes killed, according to the researchers. Exorcisms can include forcing children to fast; putting petrol into children’s eyes or ears, beatings and being forced to swallow various substances. Many confessions are taken out under duress or violence, says the report. This has to end and awareness and education is the perquisite.