Members of the Vapostori worshiping at a shrine in Harare ( photo: M. Chibaya)

Members of the Vapostori worshiping at a shrine in Harare ( photo: M. Chibaya)

In an effort to improve health seeking behaviour of religious groups, the  Ministry of Health and Child Care in partnership with UNICEF, has roped in the members of the apostolic sect.

Members of the Apostolic-Faith Based Ministries have traditionally shunned national immunisation programmes insisting on divine healing for all forms of sickness and disease.

This message is repeatedly preached to the church’s members, encouraging them to obey the message religiously throughout their lives. They are to rely on the holy water (muteuro) and prayers from the church elders to cure illnesses and diseases. It’s a tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation within the church.

The radical sects believe conventional medicine is evil. Members who seek modern medical care risk punishment from church leaders including suspension or excommunication.

Members are prohibited from seeking treatment in hospitals or taking conventional medicine when they fall ill.

However, during the just ended Africa Vaccination Week program were government aims to reduce infant mortality rate members of the Apostolic sect participated after the Ministry of health reached out to them.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care engaged Johanne Masowe Echishanu shrine in Unit L, Seke Chitungwiza with the aim of vaccinating children under five.

Chitungwiza Hospital Sister in Charge, Sister Zhakata, told journalists at Johanne Masowe eChishanu shrine in Unit L  in Chitungwiza, that they have always been at pains to reach out to the members of the sect.

“We have always had a problem with these apostolic churches because most of them do not respond to our calls for them to have their children vaccinated.

“So this year, we ran a campaign prior to this week’s vaccination week, and we mobilized them to have their children vaccinated and screened for acute malnutrition.

“The response we saw has been overwhelming which shows they heed our calls to vaccination,” said Sister Zhakata.

She added that, although the response was satisfactory for Chitungwiza, more of the same needs to be done at a national level so that all children undergo vaccination.

Zimbabwe’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (ZEPI) has integrated immunization with Vitamin A supplements, de-worming, active screening for acute malnutrition and growth monitoring.

According to UNICEF, an estimated 19.4 million children around the world still miss out on full vaccinations every year. Around two thirds of all unvaccinated children live in conflict-affected countries.

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