The ‘spirit child’ phenomenon, which has persisted in some parts of the Upper East Region in the northern part of Ghana over the years, is a cultural practice whereby children born with disabilities or whose birth coincide with a tragic incident in the family, such as the loss of a parent, are not allowed to live.
By the age-old traditional belief, commonly practised at Sirigu in the Kassena Nankana West District in the region, children who are born with any form of disability or whose parents die after birth are considered spirit children and are, therefore, given specially prepared concoctions for them to die.
Such babies are called spirit children and are thought to be bad omen. For the community, it is considered blasphemy and a curse by the gods and for that matter the unfortunate creature must return.
Outmoded cultural practice
To deal with this outmoded cultural practice, chiefs from the seven traditional areas in the Upper East Region, where the spirit child phenomenon is practised, have started initiating local regulations to outlaw the practice.
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Christian missions and a number of international charity organisations were compelled to partner a number of local non-governmental organisations to set up special homes to absorb victims of the phenomenon.
Welcoming an Rlg Foundation delegation to his palace, the Regent of Sirigu, Anyoka Akwara, said after a public declaration by all seven chiefs condemning the practice, the chief had begun a process to codify local rules against it.
He said the final document would be forwarded to the security agencies in the three regions in the north for implementation, including arrest and prosecution of offenders.
According to him, while the practice had some relevance in times past, it was currently considered anti-development and retrogressive.
“Today, this behaviour of ours undermines development in our communities. We are more than ready to eliminate it once and for all,” the regent told the delegation.
Rlg Foundation delegation
The Rlg Foundation delegation was at Sirigu to inaugurate and hand over a number of projects to the chiefs and people of the town.
The projects included a mechanised borehole for a local primary school and a donation of assorted items, including food items to the Mother of Mercy Babies Home at Sirigu.
The Manager of the Rlg Foundation, Mr Malcolm Frazier, said the company saw the need to assist residents of Sirigu, especially because it is the birth place of Mr Roland Agambire, the Chief Executive Officer of Rlg Communications Group, the parent company of the foundation.
Present at the ceremony was Mr Joseph Asakibeem, the Kasena-Nankana East District Manager of Afrikids, a British charity working to eradicate the spirit child phenomenon from the Upper East Region.