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Child Abuse in Ghana

First of all, let me clarify that none of these beautiful babies are mistreated in any way.

Abused or neglected children are a reality of every country, regardless of socioeconomic standing. Here the line between discipline and abuse tends to be much broader, and my week in the Accident and Emergency Ward (ER) has really driven this point home. In Ghanaian culture, using physical means of discipline (caning, beatings, etc) is expected and sometimes even recommended for young children. Schools cane children up until senior high school, though this practice is dying out. I have often wondered, where is the line drawn? When is it too much?

This week I finally saw, 'too much'. It came from a place of discipline but the perpetrator went too far.

Doctors are obligate reporters of non-accidental injury of a minor. They are required to report it to the medical social worker and it becomes a social work case. The department of social work then goes through the process of investigating the abuse. The parents are the primary abusers and are the first to be interviewed, then other relatives and teachers are questioned. If there abuse is coming from the parents then it goes to counselling and if that fails, a family court, in which case custody may be removed from the parents and the child goes to next-of-kin. There is not really a foster care system here. Other relationships to the child that may be abusive are then they are counselled or restricted in access to the child. Doctors are often put between a rock and a hard place since the child may not necessarily live a better life away from their parents and the department of social work may fall through. Reporting negligence or foul play is vastly more difficult if there is a normalized culture or few resources for the victims.