UNICEF Chief of communications official, Micaela de Sousa said in an interview that her team was in the area engaging with the Marange community in best ways of getting them to appreciate the essence of immunising their children.
“As UNICEF we respect cultural values of every society and currently in Manicaland we have started some serious partnerships to deal with immunization with other areas like
promoting and empowering the girl child so that she attains education. We continue to develop these relations to ensure that the best interests of children are respected and this can only be attained through continued engagement.
“This method is working, of course we take into account the reservation based on their beliefs but at the same time our responsibility is to engage in dialogue, sensitise and mobilize these
groups to ensure that there is real critical mass of them including their leadership”, she said.
The United Nations Children’s Education Fund UNICEF which was spearheading the measles campaign said although they managed reach the desired target of five million children country wide, the Marange community recorded the lowest number of children who were immunized.
The Marange area is dominated with members of the Johanne Marange Apostolic church who are resistant to immunization because of their beliefs.
According to UNICEF, in Marange only 30% of the children were immunized. Most of kids who managed to be immunized came on their own at the treatment camps as their mothers were afraid of being seen by other church members visiting the immunization camps.
During the national immunization program in April reports from Manicaland said some members of the apostolic sect resorted to staying in mountains while avoiding the medical program.
In Masvingo recently three members of the Johanne Marange apostolic sect went on the run after severely beating a police officer with knobkerries while resisting attempts to have their children immunised.
After beating the police officer and forcing a health official to flee, they escaped and are believed to have crossed the border into South Africa.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai early this year held meetings with members of the sect as he tried to convince them to have their children immunised.
The government in May this year embarked on the immunisation programme to reduce the child mortality rate in the country. Children aged between 0-5 years were being immunised against child killer diseases among them measles and polio.