Harare (Agenzia Fides) – An outbreak of measles has hit 28 of the 62 districts of Zimbabwe and is still spreading. Efforts to vaccinate people are hampered by local religious beliefs. According to the latest Epidemiological Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO), since the beginning of the epidemic in October 2009, there have been about 1,200 suspected cases, 221 confirmed and 50 resulting in death. UNICEF, together with other organizations involved in the health sector, has undertaken an intensive vaccination program. The campaign aims at all children ages 6 months to 14 years. In the eastern part of Zimbabwe, in the District of Buhera in the Manicaland Province alone, more than 25,000 children are already vaccinated. Now the organization is engaged in a door to door campaign, to highlight the importance of vaccination of children, although the strategy also finds resistance among those who refuse the vaccine because of religious beliefs.
The epidemic of measles has also struck a group of families belonging to the "Johanne Marange Apostolic Church" in the area of Nzvimbe, about 70 km from the city of Mutare, on the border with Mozambique. The elders of the church do not allow the vaccination nor allow their followers to receive medical treatment, and prefer to sprinkle holy water on the patients as a remedy. The report says that 30 people belonging to religious groups, mostly children, died from measles, although the number could be higher, due to the practice of Vapostori, “quick burials.” In Zimbabwe, children receive their first measles vaccination at nine months after birth, and the second dose at 18 months. Symptoms of the disease usually appear between 8 and 12 days after infection and include high fever, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots inside the mouth. Each year, this disease causes hundreds of thousands of deaths among children in developing countries. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 8/3/2010)