Confronting Accusations of Witchcraft in Namibia

Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of progressive conditions that affect the brain. It damages the nerve cells in the brain so messages can’t be sent from and to the brain effectively. Dementia can affect a person at any age, but it is more commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 65 years. An estimated 2.5 million people live with dementia in sub-Saharan Africa.

Founder and Director of Alzheimer Dementia Namibia (ADN) Berrie Holtzhausen spoke to us about his organisation’s work to break down the stigma and discrimination surrounding dementia. ADN works to advocate for people with dementia through awareness and education, and cares for people living with dementia in a centre at Swakopmund on the central west coast of Namibia.

The most common explanations for dementia encountered by Berrie and his team are rooted in witchcraft-related beliefs and religious superstition. In 2012, they found Ndjinaa, pictured, who was chained in a small hut, where she had been kept for 20 years. She had no possessions aside from the cloth that covered her. ADN reunited Ndjinaa with her family, set up a home for her on a piece of land, dug a bore hole, and helped her to open her own bank account.

Recently, Alzheimer Dementia Namibia worked with Mbakutuka Komapando, who wrote up Ndjinaa’s story as a children’s story, I am Ndjinaa, which explains the consequences of witchcraft-related beliefs for people living with dementia. The story is illustrated by artist Hazel Schoeman. The organization is planning a series of these children’s booklets to educate the next generation about the signs and symptoms of dementia.

To find out more about the work of ADN, please visit

Click below image for downloadable PDF of I am Ndjinaa: