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The Fate of Children With Special Needs in Northern Ghana

These children in Northern Ghana do not attend school. Photo: Npong Francis/

“Why leave such a child to grow into the world of suffering and pain since the society has no supporting facilities to cater for their special needs,” says 42-year-old Njognam Adisa. “It is better to kill it when it is born with pronounced deformity.”

Adisa lives in Nayilifong, a surburb of Yendi Municipality in the northern region of Ghana. She says her second child was killed minutes after being born when it was detected that the child was limbless. “I supported the killing of the child because it will bring me more pain in trying to nurse such a child,” she says. “Taking care of such children often stigmatizes the parents. It’s emotionally stressful to give birth to a deformed child, let alone to keep it.”

Adisa says her friend gave birth to a baby with cleft lip who was also poisoned to death by a traditional priest. The child was labelled “spirit child” and killed to free the parents from emotional stress and abuses. “We cannot take care of children with special needs or disabilities so the best option is to do away with such a child at birth,” Brekum Kosie says.

In northern Ghana, many children born with pronounced deformities are labelled “spirit children” and killed at birth. There are no records of such killings in the criminal department of the Yendi Municipal Police Station because the killings are often done in secrecy.

“Nobody will report such cases to the police. That’s why we do not have the records of children killed in such manner,” says a police officer who wants to remain anonymous.

“The logic of not keeping deformed children is simple: there is no friendly environment to support their upbringing so the best way to deal with such conditions is to do away with the child at birth,” says Banyitobe Lambiliba. He says most communities use this as a means to reducing the burden of keeping children with special needs, and to avoid causing children more pain.

According to Lambiliba, the government is incapable of providing infrastructure such as schools and hospitals to children, with or without disabilities. In his view, these conditions explain why the parents don’t want their children with disabilities to be going to the streets to beg.

Abubakari Yakubu, a social worker, says that although the government has social welfare in place, the funds to run activities to supporting such disadvantaged children are not available.

Community children playing on the ground. Photo: Npong Francis/

“It is not only deformed children that are killed. Healthy children born unwanted can sometimes be killed or thrown away by their mothers if the person has no job to support the upbringing of a child,” he said. He said most of the children in orphanages in Ghana have been abandoned on the streets; only in very few cases both parents of a child are dead.

According to Yakubu, the current government re-named the ministry of women and children’s affairs to Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection with the focus on vulnerable groups such as children with special needs.

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About The Author(s)

Npong Francis

Npong Francis

Journalist/Climate Change Communications Consultant

Holds Climate Change Diplomacy certificate, certificate, Decentralized Governance, Diploma- Journalism, and Marketing, Certificate, Strategic Business Development, Human Rights Reporting and Journalism, social media enthusiast, blogger. He is an Accountancy student (Tamale PolyTechnic), National Coordinator, Media Advocates for Sustainable Environment (MASE), Climate Change Communications Consultant. He's passionate about agriculture, development of democracy in Africa. He has hundreds of publications (articles) to his credit.

Comments (7)

  • Salifu M. Nurudeen

    It’s a good report. It is unfortunate our leaders care more about their ex gratia than securing the interest of those whose resources they superintendent over.

  • Paula LeRoy

    Thank you Npong for writing this article. We at Emmanuel’s Dream.Org are raising money to build a school, adaptive therapy center and sports academy for children with disabilities, and to do advocacy to the community about the Gift these children can be.

    We expect to create a model for many nations who follow the same practices. They have all signed the Convention on the Rights of the Disabled, but little has been done.

    Please check out our website EmmanuelsDream.Org

    • Balis

      Paul, will be happy contributing to the success of the programme, nice and touching idea, hope doations will come fastest for the project to take off. thanks for appreciating, a community voice site

  • Gifty K

    Great post. Some serious advocacy required but we will get there, hopefully!


Leave a Comment to Balis

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