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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
HomeHealthGrieving Families Blame “Evil Spirits” for Suspected Measles and Mumps Tragic Child Deaths

Grieving Families Blame “Evil Spirits” for Suspected Measles and Mumps Tragic Child Deaths

As you step into the remote, dusty village, the landscape is dotted with a surprising sight – lush, green gardens seemingly springing up out of nowhere. Rows of vibrant sweet potato plants and thriving vegetable beds paint a picture of new life and growth. Yet, a closer inspection reveals a troubling undercurrent to this pastoral scene.

Beneath the surface of these hastily planted gardens, a darker truth emerges. Tiny mounds of upturned earth, barely noticeable, hint at the tragic burden the villagers carry. These are the secret graves of children, their young lives cut short by mysterious, devastating illnesses that have gripped the community.

The green gardens, once a symbol of resilience and sustenance, now serve as a haunting veil, hiding the heartbreak that lies beneath. The villagers, their faces etched with sorrow, tend to these plots with a bittersweet determination, their every action a testament to the fragility of life and the unyielding need to provide for the living, even in the shadow of unimaginable loss.

The communities of Maronda/Mangate, Shumba, Village 5, Chakaraya and Dzokamushure in Hurungwe District are reeling from a disturbing trend – the deaths of dozens of children that they believe are caused by evil spirits. 

The villagers, who largely belong to the Johane Marange Apostolic Church, firmly believe that the deaths of their children are the work of evil spirits. 

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“When such calamities occur, it means someone in our church has committed an abomination and God is calling us to order and repent,” one resident, Masimba Chikore, explained this belief. 

This religious conviction has tragic consequences. In Ward 22 of Dzokamushure Village, the Mabhara household has lost six children in quick succession – aged 12, 9, 7, 3, and 1.5 years old. The children reportedly exhibited symptoms of hallucinations, bleeding from the nose and mouth, and high fevers before their untimely deaths. 

“The family buried their children on separate occasions with a few close church members as mourners,” Chikore added. 

Tomato plants decorate one of the graves as if not to put heaps of soil to waste.

Tragically, the Mabhara family is not alone, at least 35 children have died from measles and mumps outbreaks in the area, according to Mashonaland West Provincial Medical Director, Dr. Celestino Dhege. 

However, the true toll is likely much higher, as the community conceals these deaths to avoid scrutiny from health authorities.

“The community is largely apostolic and very secretive,” Dr. Dhege lamented. “They can make a new sweet potato bed to conceal a burial, and this took us a long time to detect the outbreak.”

The provincial health team has now resorted to a “non-confrontational approach,” working undercover to offer medical services to women and children in need, but the stigma remains strong. 

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The tragedy in Hurungwe District highlights the devastating consequences of religious dogma that prioritizes faith over modern medicine. As the Hurungwe Civil Protection Unit works to address this crisis, the grieving families continue to mourn the loss of their children, convinced that evil spirits, not preventable diseases, are to blame.

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