Zimbabwe measles outbreak blamed on cult gatherings kills 157 children


A child receives a measles vaccine during a campaign in Juba, South Sudan February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Samir Bol/File Photo

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HARARE, Aug 16 (Reuters) – A measles outbreak in Zimbabwe has killed 157 children and the death toll has nearly doubled in just under a week, the information minister said on Tuesday.

Last week, the government blamed sects of the Apostolic Church for the spike in infections, saying measles was widespread among those who had not been vaccinated. Read more

The total number of suspected cases nationwide rose from 1,036 to 2,056 in four days, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said at a post-cabinet press briefing.

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Most of the reported cases involve children between the ages of six months and 15 years old belonging to religious sects who do not believe in vaccination.

“It was noted that most of the cases were not vaccinated to protect against measles. The government invoked the Civil Protection Unit Act to deal with this emergency,” Mutsvangwa said.

As the Ministry of Health steps up its vaccination program ahead of the opening of schools in September, the government has asked traditional and religious leaders for their support, she added.

The measles outbreak is expected to further strain Zimbabwe’s health sector, which has long suffered from a lack of medicines and strikes by health workers.

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Reporting by Nyasha Chingono; Editing by Bhargav Acharya and Nick Macfie

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