Some women from the apostolic group have revealed that to save their children from the measles outbreak, they now visit clinics in secret, sometimes under the cover of darkness and without their husbands’ knowledge.
Speaking to Great Dyke News 24, a number of women said they have learnt from Covid-19 which killed a lot of unvaccinated people.
“We lost a lot of our relatives due to Covid-19 where we were not allowed to be vaccinated. Yes l grew up in Johane Marange knowing that we are not allowed to go to hospitals. However, with the rate at which our relatives are dying, we are now going against the rules to make sure that we survive.
“We are working with a number of nurses who are assisting us to vaccinate, our children in secrecy without their fathers’ approval. We are doing whatever it takes to save our children. A lot of children from Manicaland are dying from this pandemic and we can’t let that happen. The government must intervene and come up with statutory requirements to make sure that our children won’t die,” said Esther Chimbodza (not her real name) ,a mother of six.
“This is a modern world, we can’t rely on the traditional beliefs that we can only be healed with holy water, Covid-19 taught us some lessons, we now know the importance of vaccination to both the children and the elderly. We are now doing it in secrecy and it’s helping us a lot because we can’t let our children die whilst we are watching, it’s better they die after we have tried,” said Sarah Chimhundu (not her real name).
“l am from the apostolic group but l’m fortunate that l did nursing and l have fifteen years experience, so l am happy that my fellow women are now believing in going to hospitals. So we are educating them and we will keep doing so,” said Christine Chipere (not her real name).
Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into a pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical of modern medicine in Zimbabwe. Followers instead put their faith in prayer, holy water, and other measures to ward off disease or cure illnesses.
Seven children from a Honde Valley family (Rode) from the Apostolic church recently succumbed to the highly contagious disease within a space of two weeks. The seven children were aged between three and eleven.
The Rode family’s remaining eight children were only spared after their parents took the
bold decision to quit their white garment church and seek medical services for them.
The family then threw their church doctrine aside and rushed to a medical facility with the other bedridden children after the death of the other seven.
“Watching my children dying one after the other made me think twice about my religious
beliefs. I saw it prudent to quit my church and seek medical attention for my children at
the local health institution.
“However, my 11-year-old boy who was being attended to at the clinic failed to make it.
He died that very evening. The other one died three days later.
“So five of my children died before we could seek medical attention for them, while the
other two died after our visit to the clinic. All the children were not vaccinated as this was
against our religious beliefs,” he said.
In a telephone interview with Great Dyke News 24, Zimbabwe Council of Churches National Health Coordinator Justice Tapatapa said they are having a number of initiatives to educate church members on the importance of vaccination and immunisation.
“The issue of measles among us is worrisome because when we are looking at the first case of measles, they were recorded in Manicaland and amongst the church community specifically the apostolic community.
“Because of that a few months down the line the churches started having some Easter conferences and they also had the annual conference in August ,so social media started saying the church was actually responsible in terms of spearheading the spread of measles within the community and it’s like the apostolic community is one of the communities which is most affected because most of the cases are being recorded from them because they do not tolerate the issue of vaccination and immunization amongst them.
“For that reason, us as the Zimbabwe Council of Churches in April when we heard about those cases we had a workshop with a number of churches. The reason was that we were also trying to spread the message to them so that at least we capture the apostolic community on behalf of them and we also try to spread the message to them so that at least they also have the message on measles,” he said.
He added that they are planning to work together with all religions and make sure that they come up with a solution to the measles problem.
“After this programme we went on to try to write a paper so that we seek funding so that at least we can have a broader approach to various provinces. The first workshop was actually a national workshop so we are now targeting the provinces and also the districts so that at least they can have the same message in terms of measles.
“We are planning for an interfaith project whereby we’ll have ZINATHA, the Apostolic community, the Muslim community, and the Seventh Day Adventist community so that these people can also have information pertaining to measles.
“Our aim is to accelerate the uptake of immunization among the church community which has been painted as one of the communities which were spearheading the spread of measles. We are also trying to intensify the advocacy, communication, and social mobilization on measles within the church community so that at least we can have a bigger percentage of people being vaccinated within their communities,” he added.
Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. More than 140 000 people globally died from measles in 2018 – mostly children under the age of 5 years, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.