When UNICEF released its 2010 report, Children Accused of Witchcraft in Africa, it highlighted a worrying rise of cases of children being accused and punished for witchcraft in many African countries. According to the report, the jump in child witchcraft accusations can be linked to pressures in religion, poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS and more. Accused children are often "unwanted" orphans being raised by distant family members although there have been cases of even immediate family members accusing a child of witchcraft. Once accused, a child can face a lifetime of psychological and physical abuse, first by family members and their own friends, and later by church pastors or traditional healers. Reasons for the accusations can include suffering from medical problem, such as autism, ADHD, or behaviour problems. Children often become scapegoats for any negative events that occur in their communities (including any "bad luck" event). Cases of children being killed by pastors to force them to confess to witchcraft have also occurred.
Despite the widespread belief in witchcraft across much of Africa and cases in which adults accused of witchcraft are often killed, accusations against children and adolescents is relatively recent. The prosecution of child witches remains legal in many countries and accused children are often left to fend for themselves on the streets, exiled from their communities. As part of their effort to fight the rising epidemic in Nigeria, the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) centre was established in 2003 in the Nigerian villge of Esi-Eket. Beginning with three children, the centre (which consists of a small block of houses) now houses 186 children with an average of ten to fifteen new children each week. While most of the children have been abandoned by their families, other families send children to the centre to be "cleansed" of their witchcraft. Despite private funding to expand the facilities to allow space for schooling, recreation, and counseling children and by initiatives by UNICEF and Stepping Stones Nigeria to eradicate the practice of child witchcraft accusations, progress remains slow.
The Nigerian government has recently launched a commission into allegations of child witchcraft in Nigeria's Akwa Iborn state where cases of accused witches are most common. The commission is mandated to investigate witchcraft accusations and establish dialogues with the local communities. Although the Child Rights Law passed in 2008 has criminalized child witchcraft accusations and imposed stiff penalties on offenders, there have been few convictions to date.