MEMBERS of some apostolic sects in Gutu district are reportedly taking to the mountains and hiding there with their children to avoid a national measles immunisation campaign due to start next week.
The families are said to be avoiding health officials who are moving around the district encouraging parents to take children under 15 years for vaccination at local health centres.
Some vapostori sects still shun medical treatment saying it is against their religious beliefs.
At least 5 million children aged between nine months and 15 years are set to be vaccinated against Measles Rubella in a national campaign that will run from 28 September to 2 October this year.
Gutu paramount chief, Edmond Masanganise, said cases of apostolic sect members hiding from health officials were widespread in the Chiwara, Shenjere and Maungwa communal lands.
The chief said he has since approached the police to round up the defiant groups to ensure their children are immunised when the campaign starts.
“We have approached the police to assist us after a number of families especially from the apostolic sects took to their heels, children strapped on their backs heading to the mountains when health officials visited homesteads just to encourage people to heed the vaccination calls.
“What will be the situation like during the immunisation days? As a community, leader I cannot afford to have a situation where the health of a community is jeopardized by a small group of people who are stuck in religious beliefs in this day and age,” said the chief.
A health official who refused to be named for professional reasons said some families were prepared to stay in the mountains until the immunisation days are over.
“There is need for intensive campaigns to members of the apostolic sects that no child should die from vaccine-preventable diseases.
“We are glad the traditional leaders listened to us. Also, the inclusion of police before and during the vaccination days will improve the number of children who will receive the vital dose,” said the official.
Development partners that include the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, Maternal and Child Health Integrated Programme (MCHIP) and the Lions Club have offered financial and technical support towards the success of vaccination campaign.
|The campaign will be held at all healthcare facilities, primary and secondary schools, outreach points, and other centres agreed by communities.
During the launch of the programme, health and childcare minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa, said the country, last year, recorded 1,024 cases of children suffering from the disease.