By Kenias Chivuzhe
The recent measles outbreak in Manicaland has drawn the attention of the country to the need for a collective approach regardless of one’s religious persuasion.
This comes at a time when affected families are opening up on the trauma they went through after losing their children to measles.
The pain of losing life due to religious extremism is something that Mutasa-based Apros Nyakunhuwa could not hide after the death of his young brother’s five-year-old child due to measles.
Taking the children to Zindi Clinic, which is just about three hundred metres from his homestead was not an easy task as his wife stuck to their church doctrine which prohibits children from being vaccinated.
However, after eventually having his way Nyakunhuwa feels vindicated after his children survived the scourge.
He narrates the ordeal which prompted him to take his children to a health facility to avoid further loss of life.
“We lost a child due to measles. I am an uncle to the child who passed on after the five-year-old child was denied health care services. My own child also contracted measles, but I managed to have him vaccinated. There issue has resulted in conflict with my wife who was against vaccination due to her religious convictions. The child that died was denied access to health care services due to church doctrines. These churches are responsible for the death of many children,” Nyakunhuhwa said.
What is still disheartening is that other families that lost their loved ones are sticking to their church doctrines even in the face of death.
“We had two children that passed on following the outbreak of measles. This happened in May this year. As members of the apostolic sect, we are not allowed to take pills, injections or any medication that include family planning tablets. We cannot go against our church doctrine as we grew up following the practices,” said another affected family member, Ms Jane Mandeusa.
“Our child contracted measles and survived but never recovered resulting in his death. We are not allowed to seek medical care due to our church doctrine. If you want to go to heaven, you will follow the church doctrine. I was saddened by the death of my child as I did not expect that to happen,” yet another affected family member, Mr Saul Pasipaenda said.
For community members who brought their children to Zindi Health Centre, religious extremism that threatens human survival should never be tolerated as it does not conform to the dictates of the constitution.
“It’s not good to deny children their right to vaccination as it affect their health,” a villager said.
Another added, “Churches that prohibit congregants from accessing health care threaten the health delivery system and expose most of the children to measles.”
“We witnessed a lot of death here due to measles hence the importance of vaccination. Government should intervene and make it mandatory for all children to be vaccinated,” said another villager.
The public outcry comes in the wake of revelations that the majority of the affected children were not vaccinated against measles.
More than 6 000 cases of measles have been recorded so far claiming 698 lives as of the 6th of this month.
Manicaland province has so far paid the heaviest price, recording more than three thousand cases and 347 deaths. e