Action Against Trafficking Body Parts

For a couple of years now, a good friend of mine has been raising awareness of a particularly disturbing practice which is taking place in Mozambique and South Africa. So-called ‘witchdoctors’ are seeking human body parts from live victims to be used in their medicine.

They believe that traditional medicines, when made with human parts are stronger  and far more powerful. Some of the details of the attacks made on people are extremely gruesome and make for difficult reading, but the stories and reports have to be heard as the governments of both countries claim the practice doesn’t occur.

As far as I am aware there are no other groups or organisations highlighting this situation and I admire Simon for his determination to raise awareness, confront the governments with the facts and help the victims of these hideous attacks.

There are many field reports about the attacks but there are many more which go unheard. Here’s an example of a recent incident:

We’ve received an interview from the father of a 10 year old girl who was murdered for her body parts a few weeks ago in Mozambique, her body was dumped in the family’s well. The father believes the bodyparts were to be used for Muti to increase business at the local mill. Here is what he said. “She was 10 years old. They killed her here in the house and then they went to cut her there in the bush. I saw the body, when we took it out from the well. My daughter was cut in this lower part (referring to her genitalia ed.), they removed the tongue and the teeth. They are going to take them to a traditional healer that will make a treatment to have a lot of deals in the grinding (referring to the local mill ed.)”

The police chief for the case of the 10-year-old girl confirmed that they killed the girl and then removed her genital organs, her tongue and her teeth. He then said “After they murdered they threw her in the well that had water, the relatives started looking but they didn’t know that she was right there in the well of their house, they even kept drinking the water from that well even after the child was inside it”.

I would encourage you to head over to Action Against Trafficking Body Parts blog or join up to the Facebook page in support of this important work.

I’m not only blogging about this because I think the situation needs as much exposure as possible but there are some interesting photographic considerations for a cause of this nature. Not long ago, Simon asked me for some advice about the cover of the next annual report and wondered what images I would recommend. To be honest, I struggled with it and found myself asking how on earth would you find a way of providing images to support this type of work. You have to tread a very delicate line between showing the reality of the situation which would be horrific whilst preserving the dignity of the person involved. I particularly like the image which has been used on last year’s report and I hope I’ll be able to help Action Against Trafficking Body Parts for their next issue. But if anyone has any suggestions or comments to make, I’d be pleased to hear them.

Real Lives – Charles

There are many heroic stories from the recent earthquake in Haiti, some were shown on national television but many others have gone unheard. Whilst visiting the area of Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, I had the opportunity to meet a teacher from one of the destroyed schools in that area.

His name was Charles.

When I first met him he was in the middle of teaching a small class of children underneath a tarpaulin, using a makeshift chalkboard and some salvaged church benches, surrounded by the rubble of the destroyed school.

We all know that there are some teachers who just seem to have a gift for communicating with children, Charles was one of those gifted individuals. He was dynamic, animated and clearly loved the children he was teaching.

Here’s a brief video clip I took of him in action.

This is his story from the day of the earthquake

On Tuesday, 12th January at 4:53pm a catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti and lasted for about 30 seconds. Charles was still at the school playing basketball in the outside play area even though classes had finished for the day and the majority of the pupils had gone home. However, there were still twenty children within the school finishing off their homework and Charles’ immediate response was to get the children out. Fortunately, nine children were near the entrance of the school and he managed to get them out safely, the building shook with an incredibly violent force and collapsed in front of him. Charles said “There was dust and debris everywhere, I could hear people screaming close by and I  couldn’t think of anything else but get to the remaining children”.

From one side of the collapsed school he managed to break through the debris to rescue two children that had been trapped, then he heard cries from the other side of the building but it was getting dark and he couldn’t see where he was going very well.  He needed to climb onto the demolished school to get to where the children were crying.  Charles eventually got to the area where the children were crying and tried to calm them down saying ‘I will get you out as soon as possible’.  He needed to move a large concrete slab which was stopping him from getting to the children but he couldn’t see what he was doing, he said “it was hopeless without light”.  He then started to think about his own family and realised he had no idea what had happened to them as he was caught up in trying to save these children.  He decided that there was nothing he could do anymore at the school until there was some light, so he explained this to the two children.  Both of the children cried and said “don’t leave me!”  It was very hard for him to leave, but there was nothing else he could do at that point so he made his way back to his house and found that it had been totally destroyed. His sister was injured but fortunately, the rest of his family were safe.

The following morning, as soon as there was some light, he returned back to the school and went to where the children were trapped under the rubble, he went along with another adult who wanted to help him. It took several hours and Charles had to crawl through a very small opening in the concrete and then smash through a concrete block to get to the children but he managed to eventually drag them both out. One child had received an injury to the side of his face where the concrete had fallen onto him but he is okay now.

He then went on to find four more children in the debris but these had unfortunately died and so he removed their bodies from the school.  He said that he thought there were two or three other children’s bodies who had died which were still under the school.


Charles had just started to teach again in the makeshift school when I met him but only a handful of children come to the lessons as they’re still too frightened of being near buildings.  Charles told me that he hopes the school can be re-built so that he can get back to doing what he loves the most – teaching children.

In my opinion, Charles is a true hero.

Here’s Charles at the place where he broke through the concrete to rescue two children.

The school that Charles teaches at in Petionville is supported by Outreach International, their plan is to rebuild the school but they need donations to make it possible.

All photographs and video by Wayne Rowe / Visioning Images