When 35-year-old Mary Nyon delivered at the Evangelical Church of Ghana hospital in Kpandai on the 31st January 2021, she collapsed. She passed out not out of Joy but out of shock of what came out of her-a baby without arms. Part of her fears stemmed from an age-long belief and practice in her community where physically challenged babies are considered as evil spirits and bad luck.
She had seen the daily cold bucket of scorn poured on parents of such children. She was not ready to endure it.
Mary’s husband, Ananias Kwaku Vigbedor has vowed to love his wife for better for worse, through thick and thin.
The thin rope has emerged in their marital journey and Ananias is determined to walk on it holding hands together with his sweetheart. Tears welled up in his eyes as he opened up to me on his compound at Kabonwule- three and half hours’ drive from Tamale.
The nurses called me to come and see what had happened. They told me there was a problem. They had covered my baby with a cloth. When they removed the clothes, I realized she had no arms. I was frightened. My wife also saw her later and collapsed. Looking at the circumstances, I had to muster courage and convince my wife that I like the baby in that state because she is my child. We were discharged to go home but I stayed in the hospital for four days I did not know where to take the child.
So called spirit children are believed to possess supernatural powers capable of bringing misfortune to their families and communities. That belief is rife in Kabonwule and Kwaku Vigbedor is aware of its ramifications.
My friends and loved ones do not want to get closer to me now. I have also decided not to allow outsiders get access to the baby so they will not attribute any misfortune in the community to my child. I have had misunderstanding and quarrels with my in-laws.
My in law says my child will die if she enters her house. The now born again Christian and farmer says that was his belief too, but that changed when gave his life to Christ. Such children are humans, if I harm her I will have to answer to God, he said, this time with a stern look on his face.
Kwaku Vigbedor knows what parents in his community are compelled to do to their physically challenged children but has vowed to change the status quo. When my child was born the midwives advised me not to harm my physically challenged child. They told me children are delivered at the hospital but anytime they check up on them later, they are told they are dead.
They kill them, many of them. We hear it all the time, he said Ananias is determined to protect his daughter and see her grow. He will not bow to the custom in his village. His only fear now is the kind of training he has to give her girl to realize her full potentials
Baby Mawuko cries as her mother tries to lull her to sleep. Mary Nyon says she is under intense pressure to get rid of her physically challenged bundle of joy. They want me to kill my child because they say she is not human, she is human and I know she will be great in future. She said beaming with optimism.
The Northern Region police has no record of these alleged killings, but residents say it is usually done on the blind side of law enforcement officers and people who can possibly raise alarm. Lydia Kabanda is in her sixties and has lived in Kabonwule for decades. She says, a blind child can be left at a dumpsite, the baby will cry till they die.
For some of them, they are taken into the bush to be killed by herbalists. Such children can stall your progress. When we inquire from the gods and they attribute the problems to the child, the child is sometimes put in a sack, hit with a stick till the child dies. If you give birth to such a child nobody will come to your house to eat. Your family members will neglect you. It is an old practice from our elders. It is barbaric.