Anonymous: Thank you for your efforts to educate us Malawians on the dangers of accusing each other of witchcraft specially our children. In our village several children were burned so they would confess that they were practicing witchcraft. After confession they were taken to the chief and beaten up badly. Afterwards they were 'healed' by the witchdoctor and their families were made to pay his fees. These were the lucky ones, others have been chased away and have become streetkids or prostitutes and those who were very young died of exposure and hardship. Some have been killed by the community through hanging on a tree and it was reported as suicide.
These and other harrowing stories were told as our researchers interviewed people all over Malawi's Southern Region concerning witchcraft related beliefs and practices which affect children. Of the respondents 80% firmly believed in witchcraft and 74% believed even young children can be witches. While most of them suggested counseling and exorcism for these children a small but vocal group calls for stiff punishments, beatings and even death. For the elderly who are accused of having instructed the children in witchcraft there is far less sympathy with 18% of the respondents calling for banishment and 15% preferring execution.
As witchcraft accusations against children and the elderly are on the rise there is need to promote a change of mindset in Malawi and consequently we have agreed to extend the nation wide media campaign until the end of 2012 and continue to teach church and community leaders about constructively addressing these issues in regional seminars in Southern Malawi.