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Nigeria: Fight against killing babies

Superstitious beliefs surround babies from multiple births as well as those born with albinism in many African traditions.

Olusola Ajayi and his wife started the Vine Heritage Home Foundation in 2004. They take in babies at risk of being killed, after learning that infanticide was still practised.

Campaigners and the government are trying to tackle the superstitions behind these killings and also address the denials and secrecy that surrounds them to protect vulnerable children.

Culture tagged them as evil because of the circumstances of their birth, they lost their mothers, born as triplets or twins or they are born as albinos and so, it was not easy at the beginning, it took them sometime before they could allow us to have the opportunity of saving the first child.

Other babies considered evil include those with physical or mental disabilities, those whose mothers die during childbirth and babies whose upper teeth come through before lower teeth.

Babies are typically killed with poisonous plants, although those whose mothers die in childbirth can be strapped to her body and buried, or abandoned in a room until they starve to death, according to Ajayi.

Over 100 children aged between one-week-old and 14 years now live at the home.Ajayi says the children are free to return to their families only when their safety is assured.

In many cases, the mothers of the babies at Vine Heritage died during childbirth, with a lack of healthcare facilities and medical staff in villages largely to blame. Nigeria has one of the worst rates of maternal mortality in the world, according to the World Health Organisation, with 814 deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2015.