Children in Uganda are reportedly being mutilated and killed in human sacrifice rituals conducted by witch doctors who are counting on miracles to end the drought in the country.
Government officials have reported that cases of human sacrifice in Uganda are on the rise as the East African country is facing a drought that has left more than 11 million people facing food insecurity and 1.6 million on the brink of famine.
"There is no food due to the ongoing drought, and some believe that this has been brought by ancestral spirits," Joel Mugoya, a traditional healer, told Religion News Service.
"So there is a high desire for people to conduct sacrifices so that they come out of this problem," he added.
Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, a Christian organization that raises awareness about child sacrifice in Uganda, revealed that children disappear in the country each week, only to be found dead or alive with missing body parts.
Jackline Mukisa, a 28-year-old Ugandan mother, shared how her 8-year-old son was found in a nearby swamp in February without teeth, lips, ears and genitals. "My innocent son died a painful death. How could somebody intend to murder my son?" she asked.
The remains of the 8-year-old boy suggest that he was killed slowly as part of a human sacrifice ritual performed by witch doctors in an apparent attempt to appease the spirits, Mukisa said. She has already filed a police report, but no arrest has been made so far.
Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga, who heads Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, noted that most survivors or victims do not file police reports.
"It's a serious problem but we are fighting it with the help of the government," he said. "It's a brutal ritual that destroys the lives of our children and affects their parents mentally. We are working with the police to arrest witch doctors involved in the ritual. We are also assisting the survivors financially and with moral support," he added.
The rituals often involve the removal of body parts, blood or tissue while the child is still alive.
Sewakiryanga recalled a case in which his charity worked with the authorities to arrest a witch doctor who drained the blood and cut out the genitals of a 7-year-old girl.
The witch doctor, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in June, also cut the neck and drained the blood of the girl's 10-year-old brother.
Forty-four suspects were recently arrested by the authorities in Katabi, a town 24 miles from the capital, Kampala, in connection with the wave of killings of women and children.
According to KidsRights, a global organization that fights for the rights of children, unscrupulous witch doctors hide among the country's traditional healers. The group noted that only 650,000 traditional healers in Uganda are registered, while an estimated 3 million are unregistered.