Measles threat growing


A MENACING measles outbreak is fast replacing the COVID-19 pandemic as the major health threat in Zimbabwe, with latest statistics showing that 37 people died on a single day last week.

COVID-19 once topped 86 deaths per day at its peak, but reported fatalities have been declining to as low as four per day, or even none, in the past few months, prompting government to lift several restrictions.

As of Sunday, the country had recorded a total of 700 deaths from the measles outbreak which started on April 10, statistics from the Health and Child Care ministry show. This is compared to less than 100 COVID-19 deaths over a similar period in 2020 when the pandemic set in.

The Health ministry on Sunday said 37 of the measles deaths were recorded on September 1.

Reports indicate that there are more communal deaths that are not being reported, especially among apostolic sect members in the eastern part of the country where the outbreak was first reported.

The ministry also said it had recorded a total of 6 444 measles cases by Monday.

A report by the World Health Organisation indicates that Mutasa district topped the list with a total of 421 cases and 38 deaths having been recorded since April.

At least 55 (13%) were vaccinated against measles, 330 (78,4%) were not vaccinated and 36 (8,6%) had unknown vaccination status around the same time.

In a statement, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) country representative Tajudeen Oyewale expressed grave concern over the measles outbreak.

“Unicef assists the government to control the outbreak through the tracking of cases in the community and through supplementary immunisation activities,” Oyawale said.

Unicef and other partners are currently supporting government response teams deployed in the affected districts.

“The measles campaign targets more than two million children aged between six months and five years and more than four million children aged five to 15 years. Unicef and partners are also supporting risky communication and community engagement activities rolled out by the government.

“Vaccine hesitancy in communities is addressed with information, education and communication materials and interpersonal communication highlighting the benefits of the vaccines. Unicef and partners are helping to collect and respond to misinformation and rumours circulating within communities.”

There have been repeated calls for the enactment of legislation to make vaccination mandatory in a country where anti-modern medicine religious sects hold sway on large percentages of the population of 15 million people.

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