Kyampisi Childcare Ministries
The sacrificing of children is a new kind of horror in Uganda, but hope is being found through the work of a local organization, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries.
"I was running and running. I didn't know what was happening, but I shouted. Now, when I remember those men, I cry."
They took him when he was walking home from school. They stabbed his neck to drain his blood, castrated him, and sliced his head with a machete. His father found him lying in the bush and carried his limp and bloody body, while the village drums beat wildly. Allan was in a coma for two months after he was rescued from the hands of the witch doctor. Child sacrifice is a very real and growing epidemic in Uganda. UNICEF reports that over 700 children have gone missing in the last four years, almost all likely victims of sacrifice. They are abducted from their villages to be used in witchcraft rituals, during which they are mutilated and left for dead. Allan’s kidnapping was a rare case that did not end in death. Though he survived, he did not come out unscathed. He will undergo hormone therapy for the rest of his life in order to function as a healthy male, and he will have reconstructive surgery as an adolescent.
Around fifteen years ago, a rumor began circulating throughout Uganda that sacrificing a child through witchcraft would provide unimaginable riches. Traditionally, Ugandan witch doctors use herbal remedies and animal sacrifices to treat ailments in their clients. As the rumor spread, witch doctors began to extort money from clients desperate enough, and willing to purchase children for sacrifice. These clients are motivated by a desire to escape poverty—to attain wealth and good luck. The children used for sacrificial rituals have become a commodity in Uganda, and are at the center of a new kind of commercial business. Fathers will sell their children for a profit; villagers will kidnap their neighbor’s children and sell them, or bring them to a witch doctor to be sacrificed. There are anti-trafficking and anti-witchcraft laws in place, but they are rarely enforced, and almost all witch doctors who practice child sacrifice operate without any threat of prosecution. The witch doctor in these photos denied any involvement in child sacrifice and said that, “it’s those other witch doctors who give me a bad name.”
Hope was a healthy one-and-a-half-year-old when she was taken by a witch doctor eight years ago. He held her captive for a year in his straw and mud shrine, giving her barely enough food and water to survive. He bound her legs beneath her and kept her for her blood, routinely cutting her body and draining its life force. Hope will never speak or walk. Because of her continued and severe blood loss, she experienced partial brain death that left her mentally and physically disabled. Even so, Hope is a joyful girl and quick to smile. She has lost the ability to advocate for herself, but she has an entire community supporting her, and they have taken on the responsibility to stand up and be her voice. In January of 2016, after eight years of searching, the police tracked down and arrested the witch doctor who imprisoned Hope. He is currently in jail, awaiting trial, and will most likely be sentenced to a lifetime in prison.
In a sea of black bodies, the white skin of those with albinism is considered sacred. Consequently, they are sold, trafficked, and sacrificed so others may supposedly reap blessings and gain wealth. When the youngest set of twins(pictured) was born, their father tried to sell them and his other light-skinned sons and daughter to a witch doctor. Their mother fled the village to protect her children from the father who longed for their blood money. Now she is a single mother of six, living in a one-room concrete house. Every day she works tirelessly to provide for, and protect them. They share one mattress, they do not always have a meal to eat, and they do not have the resources to attend school. They live each day without their father, and with the knowledge that the man who helped create them tried to sell their bodies for sacrifice.
George & his father, godfrey
"It was February 15th, 2009. It was a Sunday and we had gone to church. We left our children at home. I came back at one thirty in the afternoon and I found that George was missing at home. I asked his sister where he was, and she told me that he had gone to a neighbor’s. I took a bath, and then I felt convicted to find out where my son was. I went to check on where George was but I didn't find him. I kept looking for him and when I went home, I gave instructions to his sister to stay home and keep an eye out for him. I went on foot to search with my wife. George's sister came running after me and was crying. She told me George was dead. I ran, crying. A neighbor told me that George was in the thick bush on a banana plantation—they said a snake bit him. People were running and crying. I said, "How did the snake bite him?" They said, "No, it was not a snake who got him. He was cut." When I got there, I felt I was powerless. I couldn't even call out to anyone. I was confused and so speechless; I couldn't do anything. The police came and carried George to a hospital. We slept there, at the hospital, and then the following day George began to speak. We found out that he was castrated. The police went searching out in the bush and captured the man who’d hurt him. What happened to my son is the hardest thing that could ever happen on this planet. I heard George say to his sister the other day, "One day I will grow up, get married, and have a wife and we will have kids." It pierced my heart to hear George talk about his dreams and future, as these things cannot happen for him."
Three years ago, ten-year-old Kanani and his seven-year-old sister were attacked in the bush by a witch doctor. His neck was sliced to drain his blood, and he was forced to watch as the witch doctor drained his sister’s blood, and cut out her genitals; both children were left to bleed and die alone in the bush. When they were found, Kanani’s sister had died from her injuries. He was unconscious and rushed to the hospital to be given a blood transfusion. The witch doctor responsible was eventually arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison for attempted murder. He is still awaiting trial for the murder of Kanani’s sister, and will likely get life in prison if convicted.
Peter Ssewakiryanga is the Founder and Executive Director of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM), and the local pastor for the families in Kyampisi Village, where Allan, George, Kanani, and Hope live. KCM is the only organization in Uganda that cares for the survivors of child sacrifice. KCM seeks justice and hope for victims and their families, standing as a beacon of light in the face of an immense darkness that is child sacrifice. They provide a sponsorship program for vulnerable youth in the village, medical care for survivors of child sacrifice, and a church and school for the local community. They also collaborate with local police to track down, and prosecute witch doctors who have committed violent crimes against children. The KCM staff works tirelessly to ensure that the story of a person affected by child sacrifice does not have to end in tragedy.