JOHANE Marange Apostolic Church devotees in Nyamayende Village of Honde Valley are resisting measles immunisation, amid shocking revelations that four children from the same family died within ten days, while six more are bedridden.
According to a message sent to this newspaper, police and health officials were informed of the developments by a whistleblower in the area.
“We have a serious challenge of measles in Honde Valley near Nyamayende Primary School, particularly in the Makoko family. They are members of the Johane Marange Church.
“One child died of measles on Wednesday, June 23. Two more children died on Saturday, June 25. At the same time, there are five more children suffering from measles.
“We request for police and the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s urgent assistance, otherwise all those bedridden will die,” reads the message.
The whistleblower later sent another message which read: “Good evening Sir. Another child from the same Makoko family has died, taking the number to four within one-and-a -half weeks.
“Six members of the same family are now suffering from the same disease. More cases are being reported in the same area. Please, is there no other means or option for the team to get there? It is now a disaster there.”
When contacted for comment, Mutasa District Medical Officer (DMO), Dr Cephas Fonte confirmed receiving reports of Honde Valley apostolic devotees resisting vaccination owing to their religious beliefs.
Although he could not deny the death of the four children, Dr Fonte only confirmed the death of two children from the same family.
“We managed to talk to Chief Mutasa and the Civil Protection Unit. There were a number of measles cases note where children clearly showed signs of measles, but their families were denying them access to medical care.
“We also managed to send a team on the ground for vaccination. While we cannot deny the figures stated by the whistleblower, we have confirmed that a 14-year-old died on June 23 while a two-year-old died on June 25.
“We also gathered that more children from the same family are still bedridden and that the family is denying them medical care. We also understand that there are more cases of measles in the area,” said Dr Fonte.
Dr Fonte said the area has always been problematic when it comes to vaccination and medical campaigns due to the community’s religious beliefs.
“We have always had problems with the Nyamayende area because of the people’s religious beliefs that do not allow them to seek medical attention. This time around we are trying more diplomatic means of reaching out to them. We do not want to be confrontational in our approach.
“At times we have witnessed cases of children running away from schools whenever we go there for vaccination programmes. It is not new. The last time we went there for a different vaccination programme, we only got nine children from the whole school,” said the Mutasa DMO.
Efforts to get a comment from the Makoko family were fruitless.
Measles is a viral infection that starts in the respiratory system.
It remains one of the major causes of death for children under the age of five despite the availability of safe and effective vaccines in the country.
The virus is transmitted by airborne droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs, and immunisations are among the most successful and cost effective prevention interventions available.