Ghanaian humanitarian scoops prestigious international award for protecting ‘spirit children’

Joseph Asakibeem grew up in Kassena Nankana, rural Ghana where children born with disabilities or deformities were believed to be possessed by evil spirits.

This fear of spirit children, a superstition developed over generations of poverty, lack of education and healthcare, can result in children being neglected, abandoned or even killed. For one man it has been his life’s mission to overcome this harmful belief and protect these children through education and providing support in their communities.

The 42-year old’s tireless work in Ghanaian villages has earned him the Bond Humanitarian Award 2018.

Joeseph, a project manager at AfriKids Ghana, was nominated for this international award by Charlie Hay, COO at AfriKids, she explains: “Joseph Asakibeem has dedicated his life and career to proving there is no such thing as a spirit child. He grew up with the belief of kinkirigo (spirit children) and knew how powerful and deeply held it was. Generations of poverty and limited education and healthcare had failed to challenge the explanation that children who were different must be bad omens. Children were being locked up, abandoned or even killed, to stop them bringing harm to the community.

“Enlisting a couple of friends, Joe set out to change minds and save lives. They were so determined, they drank dangerous herbal concoctions to prove their integrity to local soothsayers and secure the trust of their communities. The idea was simple: listen to local people to find the solutions.”

“Joe spoke to everyone – parents, chiefs, village elders, local authorities and critically, the soothsayers and concoction men who were “diagnosing” children as spirits and supplying the remedies that would kill them. Respectfully hearing everyone’s views was fundamental to designing the solutions.

“Joe organised events in the community where adults with disabilities spoke as role models, allaying fears and demonstrating the potential that was being lost in children killed. Treatment and extra support were found for children with health conditions and they worked with the Department for Social Welfare and local children’s homes for children without a safe home. With simple tools, concoction men had alternative livelihoods: goats for rearing and bicycles to peddle herbal treatments for common ailments. Crucially, everyone had a part to play: empowering them to buy into, lead and maintain changes for good.

“The most powerful testament was concoction men reinventing themselves as Right to Life Promoters. The men who had previously killed children are now ardent ambassadors for child protection. Reports of birth complications or family misfortune still come to them, but now they help by coordinating professional advice and support.

“Joe and his team achieved complex change where foreign interventions persistently failed, eradicating the belief and killing of spirit children from their community by working from the ground up. Not a single report – official or otherwise – has been made of a spirit child killing in Kassena Nankana since 2012.

“Following this remarkable achievement, they expanded their work into more areas and have now celebrated the end of the spirit child phenomenon with eighteen communities (11 between 2014-2017). Today, they continue to work with new communities, while taking on the next challenge – better services and support for children with disabilities. Their latest work in Kassena Nankana has already helped 14 children with cerebral palsy walk for the first time.

Joseph Asakibeem, Bond Humanitarian Award winner and project manager at AfriKids Ghana says: “This award tells me that people around the world are watching and appreciating what I am doing and the best thing for me is to keep moving ahead with work that continues to help the little ones. I am sure this award will encourage more people to come and support AfriKids so we can do even more work in Ghana.”

“Joe is a hero of grassroots development, proving the power of local people to triumph over adversity.”

Mike Wright, Director of Communications at Bond, says: “We are delighted to be honouring Joseph Asakibeem for the inspirational and life-changing work he has been doing in Ghana. The standard of shortlisted nominees this year was particularly high and incredibly diverse for the Humanitarian Award, so Joe should be deservedly proud of this global recognition.”

Joe will receive his award at a prestigious ceremony on February 26 in London.

The Bond International Development Awards form part of Bond Annual Conference, Europe’s biggest international development event, bringing together diverse organisations and thinkers to share ideas and discuss emerging trends in the international development and humanitarian sectors.

Further details on Joe’s admirable work can be found here:


For further information and interview requests, please contact:

Vicci Moyles E: [email protected] T:07879 680068

About Bond

Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of over 450 civil society organisations and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice.

By helping our members adapt to an ever-changing environment, we enable civil society to create a more just and sustainable world. We work to influence governments and policy-makers, develop the skills of people in the sector, build organisational capacity and share expertise.

About AfriKids

Since 2002, AfriKids Ghana has been delivering vital holistic services to children in Ghana’s Upper East Region. The organisation tackles complex issues such as child trafficking, child labour and child abuse. Providing access to education and primary healthcare, vocational training and income generating activities, AfriKids ensures lasting solutions for the region’s vulnerable children.

Notes to Editors

Now in their fifth year, the Bond International Development Awards recognise the inspiring humanitarian and development work within the International Development sector

There are six categories, each reflecting and responding to important trends and challenges in international development:

The Innovation Award (sponsored by Diversity Travel) showcases organisations, coalitions or initiatives that take novel approaches to navigate a complex and changing external environment.

The Collaboration Award recognises effective relationships and collaborations within and across sectors and disciplines to tackle difficult issues.

The Advocacy Campaign Award (sponsored by The Donkey Sanctuary) celebrates strategic and inspiring campaigns that raise public awareness of international development causes.

The Fundraising Campaign Award recognises creative fundraising campaigns that engage the public in new and unusual ways.

The Governance Award recognises NGOs who are practising and promoting good governance within their organisation.

The Corporate Partnerships Award (sponsored by Western Union Business Solutions) showcases effective work between NGOs and corporate companies.

The Humanitarian Award highlights the unacknowledged heroes working in the humanitarian field.

The Volunteer Award celebrates exceptional individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the organisation and the sector.

The Awards will take place on February 26, 2017 at the QEII Centre in London

Full details are available at