"Children accused of witchcraft are often incarcerated in churches for weeks on end and beaten, starved and tortured in order to extract a confession," said Gary Foxcroft, program director of Stepping Stones Nigeria, a nonprofit that helps alleged witch children in the region. Many of those targeted have traits that make them stand out, including learning disabilities, stubbornness and ailments such as epilepsy, he added. The issue of "child witches" is soaring in Nigeria and other parts of the world, Foxcroft said.
The states of Akwa Ibom and Cross River have about 15,000 children branded as witches, and most of them end up abandoned and abused on the streets, he said.
Foxcroft, whose documentary, "Saving Africa's Witch Children," was broadcast last year, spoke to a U.N. panel on the issue in April.
"The role of the international Christian community in this cannot be underestimated," Foxcroft said. "Unfortunately, the fact remains that this belief system is being spread by so-called Christians."