Police help sought to access shrine after 2 die of suspected cholera

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

HEALTH officials in Mashonaland East have enlisted the services of the police to access a crowded Murewa shrine where two members of the Johanne Marange apostolic sect have died of suspected cholera.

The two, a male and female adults, were part of the thousands of sect members who are gathered in Mukwa village in the Mashonaland East area for their annual holy communion at Chitsidzo shrine.

They died Tuesday at Dandara clinic.

Officials from the health ministry said sect members who do not believe in clinical solutions to diseases have blocked officials from accessing the place to investigate the sources of the two deaths. Apostolic sect members believe in the holy water and holy spirit as substitute to scientific methods of treatment.

But despite the beliefs, some of the members are now clandestinely going to the local clinic seeking treatment, according to officials from the area.

Mashonaland East provincial epidemiologist, Dr Paul Matsvimbo confirmed they were also investigating a dysentery outbreak in the area.

“After receiving a tip-off, we came here (Murehwa) but we were denied access by the sect members who do not believe in seeking medication apart from their holy water and prayers,” said Matsvimbo.

“But we are monitoring the situation and have since activated our response team to monitor the situation in Murewa.

“We have since held an emergency meeting with relevant stakeholders and assembled a team to manage the cases while cholera treatment has been established at Murehwa District Hospital.

“But we are sending a health team to the shrine with the Zimbabwe Republic Police to engage the church leaders so that health officials have access to the shrine and make some investigations.”

An official from the clinic who declined to be named told Wednesday that the deceased members of the sect had symptoms of cholera.

“The dysentery that has hit the shrine has forced some of the members to seek treatment here and so far, two people have died here,” said the official.

“Before the post-mortem could be done, the elders from the church grabbed the body and disappeared with it for burial and we fear no proper burial orders of people who die of cholera were followed.”

The Dandara officials went on to say that the area is near the border of Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East provinces and a member could have come from Mt Darwin which was recently hit by cholera.