The Omo River Valley is located in Southwest Ethiopia.It has been
called “the last frontier” in Africa.
There are nine main tribes that occupy the Omo River Valley, with a
population of approximately 225,000 tribal peoples. The majority of the
people living in the Omo River Valley live without clean drinking water
and without medical care.
It has been a privilege to go back to the Omo Valley in Ethiopia with
my friend, John Rowe, to photograph the work he is doing with Lale
Labuko in their mission to end the practice of mingi and to house and
shelter the mingi children who have already been rescued.
Lale, a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, learned about the practice of Mingi and made it his life’s mission to end ritual infanticide in his tribe’s
John Rowe and Friends.
I met John in Burma. He is a photographer and successful businessman who has founded companies which develop software for digital media and the
entertainment industry. He has also devoted a tremendous amount of time, energy, and financial assistance to the work of Omo Child.
To learn more about Lale and John and OmoChild, please visit:
Mingi is the ritualistic killing of infants and children who are Mingi
because they are considered impure or cursed.
A child can be mingi for many reasons, but once they are mingi they are
left alone in the desert without food and water or drowned in a river.
Many of the tribes of the remote Omo Valley in Southwest Ethiopia live a
peaceful and pastoral lifestyle. However, fear and superstition still exist in
the valley. Some of the tribes believe evil spirits or a “curse” will bring ill
fortune (drought, famine, disease and death) to their villages if Mingi
children are not killed.
Because tribal elders believe Mingi children’s presence on the land curses
the tribe, they have mandated the killing of all Mingi children. The practice
was recently ended in the Kara tribe, due in large part to the efforts of Lale
Labuko and Omo Child. Unfortunately, Mingi is still practiced by the
A child can be declared Mingi for the following reasons — Teeth Mingi,
Girl Mingi, Woman Mingi and Twin Mingi. Being declared Mingi almost
always means death of the child. The tribe will leave the child alone in the
bush without food and water or will drown the child in the river.
One of our goals at Omo Child is to stop the tribal practice of Mingi. We
believe that we can achieve this by providing education and humanitarian
support to the rescued children and their tribes.
Babies born out of wedlock are labeled Mingi by tribal elders.
Expensive dowries are required to marry which leaves many couples
unable to afford marriage. Once their babies are born, they may be
When couples are married but do not have their marriage or
pregnancy approved, their babies could be declared Mingi.
Children that get their top teeth before their bottom teeth, or if they
have chipped a baby tooth, may be declared Mingi by tribal elders.
The birth of twins is perceived as a curse and both babies may be