The Zimbabwe Sentinel-Media Centre

Telling the other story – MEDIA CENTRE


Unvaccinated Children Saga Rages On

Mashonaland West PR, Mutsa Murombedzi.

By Nhau Mangirazi

Some Apostolic sects have distanced themselves from the ‘diabolic act’ of shunning medical care that resulted in the death of 35 children in Hurungwe recently.

This comes amid calls by girl child rights advocates for a holistic approach to end minors’ suffering and silent deaths.

Shamwari Yemwanasikana Programs Lead, Esnara Kativhu, said it is depressing that the children were never afforded health care.

“We are deeply concerned about the ongoing neglect of children’s health and well-being by certain apostolic sects in Hurungwe district, Mashonaland West. The recent measles outbreak, which tragically claimed the lives of over 30 children, highlights the urgent need for immediate action to protect the girl child,” she said.

Bishop Gabriel Nyamandi (48), leader of the Masvingo-based St. Peters Apostolic Church of God, condemned those that do not believe in hospitals.

“Our Apostolic church has its own principles of accessing medication from health facilities. It is not a crime to seek medication. We have had awareness campaigns with followers on HIV and AIDS, polio vaccination among others. We are open to health officials so that our membership gets medication or vaccination among minors,” said Nyamande.

He explained that during April Passover, they encouraged polio vaccination among children.

“We call on media to help us mediate with our fellow apostolic sect followers on the positives of medication at health facilities so that we curb unwarranted deaths of minors,” Nyamande said.

Nyasha Marange, acting spokesperson of Johanne Marange, refused to comment on the matter.

“I need to seek approval from elders before I can comment on the issue you are talking about,” he said in a telephone interview.

Ironically, Hurungwe district, the epicenter of secret burials, has of late pushed hard during polio and measles outreach programs, although some Johanne Marange sect members have been hostile to vaccinate their children.

The Hurungwe Civil Protection Unit has embarked on investigations aimed at exposing the secret burials of minors mostly around Nyama and Lynx mine health centers.

Meanwhile, the ongoing saga involving unvaccinated children in Hurungwe spills into the August House on Wednesday.

Mashonaland West Proportional Representative, Mutsa Murombedzi sought clarification on government policy following the death of at least 35 unvaccinated children in Hurungwe between March and April.

Most of the victims were not vaccinated and were buried secretly because of religious beliefs.

“My question is directed to the minister of Health and Child Care. Following the reports of the recent deaths of 35 children in this country due to the shun of immunisations, what is the government policy with regards the attainment of head immunity by mandatory immunisation of all children in Zimbabwe in order to protect children from six killer diseases and to avoid the spread of diseases in our community?” said Murombedzi.

Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Sleiman Timios Kwidini recognised the importance of the question.

“It is known that immunisation is mandatory in this country, every child is supposed to be immunised at the age of five. The issue is that we have got some challenges with Christianity or other people who do not believe in that, but it is now mandatory for each and every government stakeholder to encourage and preach the gospel of this immunisation to each and every one to appreciate the efforts made by the government so that everyone is immunised despite their religion,” said the minister.

Murombedzi further sought clarification on the deaths attributed to religious beliefs.

“Is the government going after the religious sects and mandating them to have children immunised or it is just going to leave it to them to do it on their own? We would like to know what the government is going to do in order to safeguard the rights of those children who are under those religious sects,” she squeezed the government official.

Kwidini responded to the supplementary question, saying the government has done all efforts to ensure each and every child has been immunised.

“A holistic approach has been taken by all ministries including Members of Parliament to go to the ground so that people appreciate what government efforts are and also to make sure each and every child has been immunized through explanations to these leaders because these religious leaders are the ones whom we stay with. They are also the people whom we share ideas and information with. It is now taken as a holistic approach. All ministries have been taken to task such that each and every one has got the information on the importance of immunisation such that we reduce these mortalities,” added Kwidini.

Of late, child rights groups have lobbied the government to take stern action against the Johanne Marange Apostolic sect defying efforts to vaccinate children from measles among other diseases.


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