The information minister of Zimbabwe, Monica Mutsvangwa, has reported that at least 157 children have died due to an outbreak of measles.
In just four days, the number of measles cases has almost doubled from 1,036 to 2,056.
Government blames “church gatherings”
“It has been noted that most cases have not received vaccination to protect against measles. The Government has invoked the Civil Protection Unit Act to deal with this emergency”, pointed out Mutsvangwa.
The majority of cases have been diagnosed in children aged 6 months to 15 years from religious groups that publicly reject vaccines.
The Health Secretary Jasper Chimedza has already warned in a statement that “the ongoing outbreak of measles which was first reported on 10th of April has since spread nationwide following church gatherings”.
“Those gatherings, which were attended by people from different provinces of the country with unknown vaccination status, led to the spread of measles to previously unaffected areas”, he added.
Mass vaccination campaign
Zimbabwe continued vaccinating children against measles even during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. But now the government is carrying out a mass vaccination campaign before schools begin in September, and has engaged with traditional and faith leaders for their support.
Measles on the rise worldwide
Measles is among the most infectious diseases in the world. The risk of severe measles or dying from complications is high among unvaccinated children.
Last April the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of an increase in measles in vulnerable countries as a result of a disruption of services due to Covid-19, specially in Africa, where measles cases has risen by 400% .
In July, UNICEF said around 25 million children worldwide have missed out on routine immunizations against common childhood diseases, calling it a “red alert” for child health.
Originally published on The Evangelical Focus
(c) Evangelical Focus, used with permission