Bizarre healing rituals fuel cholera outbreak

Douglas Mombeshora
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GOVERNMENT has scaled up interventions to halt the spread of cholera in Manicaland, with investigations being instituted on an apostolic sect allegedly conducting bizarre healing rituals and wilfully polluting Save River.

Roving doctors have since been deployed to all health facilities where cholera patients are admitted to reduce the loss of life and contain the disease.

Village health workers in Buhera bemoaned the conduct of some religious objectors who are refusing to get professional health care services, opting to treat their infected sect members in mainstream rivers, thereby spreading the disease to downstream communities relying on the waterbodies for various uses.

The latest cholera wave has been recorded in Buhera, Mutare and Chipinge Districts, with the epicentre being Buhera which has reported a cumulative 746 cases and 27 deaths since August 2023.

Cumulatively, Manicaland had recorded 2 350 cholera cases and 83 deaths as at October 13, with 40 new cases and one death being recorded last week on Saturday.

This prompted the Minister of Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Douglas Mombeshora and a high powered delegation to visit the hotspot areas.

They toured Murambinda Mission Hospital, Mudanda and Betera Clinics where the cases were linked to lack of clean water sources, poor sanitation and lack of basic hygiene practices.

Dr Mombeshora said there are plans to drill eight solar-powered boreholes across Buhera.

He said the Health Ministry will dispatch motorbikes to enhance mobility of infection prevention and control specialists, as well as ideal beds for the treatment of cholera patients.

“Water supply is not up to the standard that we require. I have spoken to a number of patients who admitted that they do not have clean sources of water.

Some have clean water to drink, but use water from the river for laundry, bathing and other things, yet water samples taken from the river showed some contamination and can be the source of infection if you fail to wash your hands properly after using it for anything else.

“Some of our people also lack basic hygiene practices, and do not have proper sanitation facilities at home and church, hence we have many victims with related cases. One death is more than enough. We are losing lives and need to scale-up our prevention efforts,” he said.

“A death has just been recorded and burial should take place today. The body should not be taken home overnight. We need to supervise our funerals and make sure all hygiene protocols are followed.

“With immediate effect, roving doctors will be deployed to help at each clinic with cholera patients. We must always make sure patients are managed well because there is a danger of losing lives,” he said.

Dr Mombeshora applauded the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, MSF, World Vision and Red Cross for complimenting Government’s efforts through various initiatives to reduce the spread of the disease.

At Mudanda Centre, there is an area without any cholera cases. The area is surrounded by areas with many cases.

“I understand this area has a different religious sect that seeks medical services. The surrounding areas with several cases of cholera are of religious objectors who do not believe in seeking medical advice,” said Dr Mombeshora.

Ms Angeline Sanganayi, a health worker for Toreva and Pasipamire in Buhera said members of some churches are refusing professional treatment and opting to treat their ailing patients in rivers.

“Patients from Chitsidzo Shrine are taken to the river and made to sit and relieve themselves in the water. They believe fresh water has healing properties that cure diarrhoea. The place along Save River is known as Zambuko (Mutapigo). They are adamant and insist that their religious believes will conquer cholera.

“Bizarrely, the patients are given the same water to drink during the healing sessions and unsuspecting communities downstream also use that contaminated water for domestic use,” she said.

The Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Advocate Misheck Mugadza said they will investigate the issue as a matter of urgency.

“The major challenge is of religious objectors, some churches do not believe in seeking treatment. This is what has lead us to where we are today, and we are engaging them.

“Some are beginning to understand and presenting their cases for treatment. We still have some that are adamant and resisting, and we will continue engaging them.

“The fact that some are beginning to understand and seeking treatment gives us hope, and will help in reducing the cases. Now that it has been mentioned, we will institute investigations and make sure that the practice stops,” said Minister Mugadza.

Buhera Central legislator, Honourable Samson Matema applauded developmental partners for complementing Government’s efforts in combating the district’s cholera outbreak.

He said collective efforts are paramount in fighting the cholera scourge. – Manica Post