20 Dec 2010

Zimbabwe Apostolic sect puts faith before children's rights, prefers uneducated or dead kids over vaccination

Sunday News - Zimbabwe August 24, 2010

Apostolic sect says no to immunisation

By Nobuhle Nyoni

MEMBERS of the Apostolic Faith sect in Gwanda have vowed not to have their children immunised despite efforts by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to convince them to take heed to their calls.

The District Medical Officer(DMO) for Gwanda, Dr Pugie Chimberengwa, said they had several meetings with the sect leaders aimed at convincing them to immunise their children.

“We have had several meetings with the apostolic faith sect leaders to try and convince them on the importance of having their children access health services. However, we have been hitting on a hard rock as they do not want to hear anything about that,” said Dr Chimberengwa.

He said the sect leaders urged health officials in the district not to force them to take their children to hospital because they did not believe in that.

Dr Chimberengwa said health officials in the village had tried to talk to a man who has since lost a child into immunising his children but had failed.

“The man is continuously reminding us of his religious beliefs which he is well-known for. He has declared that he will never allow his children to access medication as his religion does not permit him to do so,” he said. The man’s stubbornness has resulted in one of his seven children dying.

He said the move to convince the sect members had resulted in them withdrawing their children from school.

“Most of the members have withdrawn their children from school as they are afraid that we will follow them to school and vaccinate them without their consent. They are denying them their right to education and at the same time the right to health,” he said. The DMO said the only thing they could do was to continue educating the sect members on the importance of having their children immunised.

“There is nothing we can do since they are refusing. We have tried engaging the police to no avail, so we will just wait and see what will happen maybe they will end up realising the importance of medication,” said Dr Chimberengwa.

He urged members of the sect to immunise their children because most of the cases were among children who were not vaccinated. The Public Health Act states that no person should be denied access to medication.The disease killed 385 children early this year with over 7 000 reported cases. This prompted the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF to conduct a countrywide immunisation programme.

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