Measles and mumps outbreak kills 35 children

ZIMBABWE is battling an outbreak of archaic diseases blamed on the country’s crumbling health system, amid reports that 35 children died in one month from suspected measles and mumps.

An outbreak of similar proportions was recorded in 2022, with more than 750 children succumbing to the diseases in the first six months of the outbreak until October.

Secretary of the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting, Ndavaningi Mangwana, broke the news saying that the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) had sent officials to Hurungwe, where cases of the disease were recorded.

“The CPU has taken responsibility for the deaths of 35 children who have died in one month due to suspected measles and mumps. The children belong to one of the apostolic religious sects.

“The tragic deaths came to light when a church member took four of his children to Karoi Hospital, two of whom showed signs of measles and the other two had mumps,” he said.

The death of 16 children from four families is feared to be the tip of the iceberg compared to hundreds of unrecorded deaths among members of the district’s apostolic sect.

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Mangwana said the outbreak affected Districts 4 and 22, including Nyama Village 5 in Hurungwe District.

He identified some of the families who lost children as Nduna (seven children), Magara (five) and Matashu, Chikonamombe and Kaitano who lost two each.

“The children belong to one of the apostolic religious sects,” he said.

In an interview yesterday in Karoi, Hurungwe district CPU chairperson Andrew Tizora said investigations were underway in the outlying rural district.

He said the government had deployed more teams to investigate the measles and mumps outbreak.

“Yes, I can confirm that there are more than 35 children who have died from measles and mumps in Hurungwe district. “We have had some deaths reported in areas such as Lynx Mine within Hurungwe Rural District Council ward 4 and Nyama within ward 22. Our investigations are inconclusive and ongoing into issues that are a public health issue,” he said. .

Speaking to NewsDay, Charles Makara from Nyama village blamed members of the apostolic sect for denying vaccination to children, even though it is free.

“The government must intensify its efforts in public health, especially among the apostolic sects,” he said.

In September 2022, NewsDay exposed the deaths of several children in rural Menoembwa under Chief Mudzimu, Ward 13.

Affected children were not vaccinated against measles and there was concern about secret burials of some affected children.

Last year, the government launched a nationwide emergency immunization program targeting 95% of all children aged 6 to 59 months and, in some cases, up to 15 years of age to achieve herd immunity.

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