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Secret vaccinations help Zimbabwe mothers protect children – ABC News

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Dozens of women holding babies rushed to take their places on wooden benches at a clinic in Zimbabwe while a nurse took a separate group of anxious mothers and their children through a back door and into another room. The nurse quickly closed the door behind them.

The women were all at the Mbare Polyclinic in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, to get their children vaccinated against measles amid a deadly outbreak in the southern African country. But those who were taken to the back room were getting their children vaccinated in secret, and in defiance of religious doctrine that forbids them from using modern medicines.

“The advent of the measles outbreak saw children dying so they are now coming secretly and we are helping them,” said Lewis Foya, a nurse at the clinic.

More than 700 children have died from measles in Zimbabwe in an outbreak first reported in April. Many were unvaccinated because of religious reasons, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said.

The government has announced a vaccination drive but, as with COVID-19, some religious groups are stubbornly opposed to vaccines and have hindered the campaign.

Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into a Pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical of modern medicine in Zimbabwe. Followers instead put their faith in prayer, holy water and other measures to ward off disease or cure illnesses.

“They have a belief that if they get vaccinated, they become unholy so that’s the doctrine that they pass down to the women,” said Foya. He said the patriarchy in the church means women have “no power to openly say no” to instructions. Children are then in danger.

There has been little detailed research on Apostolic churches in Zimbabwe but studies by the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, estimate it is the largest denomination with around 2.5 million followers in a country of 15 million. Some allow members to seek health care. Many are still resistant.

So to save their children, some mothers visit clinics in secret, sometimes under the cover of night and without their husbands knowing. A group of Apostolic church members who are open to modern medicine have been trying to change church attitudes, but also advise women to go against church rules if it means helping their children.

“We encourage women to get their children vaccinated, maybe at night,” said Debra Mpofu, a member of the Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust. “It’s really necessary for the women to protect their children so it’s important for them to just sneak out.”

The secrecy is necessary because members found to have visited health care centers are shamed and forbidden from taking part in church activities.

The World Health Organization warned in April of an increase in measles in vulnerable countries due to COVID-19 disruptions, with more than 40 countries postponing or suspending their regular immunization campaigns. In July, UNICEF said about 25 million children worldwide had missed out on routine immunizations against common childhood diseases, calling it a “red alert” for child health.

Globally, WHO and UNICEF reported a 79% spike in measles in the first two months of 2022 alone and warned of the potential for large outbreaks. Children and pregnant women are most at risk of severe disease from measles, which is among the most infectious diseases and easily preventable with a vaccine. More than 95% of measles deaths occur in developing countries.

Zimbabwe’s outbreak was first reported in the eastern Manicaland province following church gatherings and has spread across the country. The government, with support from UNICEF, the WHO and other non-governmental organizations, has embarked on a vaccination campaign targeting millions of children.

At the Mbare clinic, one mother said people had learned from the vaccine hesitancy prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of people were misinformed during that COVID-19 period because they were told that when you get vaccinated there will be after-effects,” said the mother, Winnet Musiyarira. “So due to that a lot of people lost their lives and it was important for everybody to take that serious. So when I heard about measles I just said I have to take my kids to hospital and get them vaccinated.”

Musiyarira said she wasn’t a member of a religious group. Some women wearing matching white headscarves to indicate they are part of an Apostolic church and who were at the Mbare clinic to get their children vaccinated secretly declined to speak to The Associated Press for fear of reprisal from church leaders.

Apostolic groups are notoriously wary of outsiders.

In a bushy area in the impoverished Epworth region outside Harare, Apostolic congregants wearing white robes gathered outdoors recently, as is their tradition, to worship. Some knelt before self-proclaimed prophets as a man scooped ashes from a fireplace and put them in plastic bag to take home to be used to heal illness.

It is one of many congregations that Mpofu’s Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust has approached. On this occasion, and after intense negotiations, Mpofu and her team were allowed to address the congregants and distribute vaccination fliers. The church leader, James Katsande, also agreed to allow his followers to take their children to clinics.

But there was a condition: They should approach the church’s prophets to be blessed before going to a clinic.

“First we need to protect them with the Holy Spirit to cast out any demons and bad luck,” said Katsande, a tall man wearing white robes and a white headscarf with a cross on it. “We remain the first port of call,” he added.

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No social media posts, please: Sri Lanka tells government employees amid crisis – Hindustan Times

Published on Sep 28, 2022 12:55 PM IST

Sri Lanka Economic Crisis: In a fresh order to 1.5 million state employees, the Ministry of Public Administration and Management said a long-established ban on speaking to reporters now extends to social media posts.

Sri Lanka Economic Crisis: A Sri Lankan flag is waved by a protester.(AP)

Sri Lanka Economic Crisis: A Sri Lankan flag is waved by a protester.(AP)
AFP |

Sri Lanka ordered civil servants on Wednesday not to express opinions on social media after some officials claimed schoolchildren were fainting from a lack of food due to the country’s dire economic crisis.

In a fresh order to 1.5 million state employees, the Ministry of Public Administration and Management said a long-established ban on speaking to reporters now extends to social media posts.

“Expressing opinions on social media by a public officer… shall constitute an offence that leads to taking disciplinary action,” the order said.

It followed claims from provincial health officials and teachers that dozens of students were fainting in schools because of a lack of food.

Read more: Once bitten, twice shy: How Sri Lanka is limiting its President’s powers

Since late 2021, Sri Lanka’s 22 million people have been suffering the country’s worst-ever economic crisis after the government ran out of dollars to import many essentials.

This triggered huge shortages and unofficial inflation rates second only to Zimbabwe, as well as protests that led to the ouster of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella dismissed claims of malnutrition among young children. He accused “politically motivated” public health workers of exaggerating the situation.

However, the World Food Programme said in its latest report that six million Sri Lankans — nearly a third of the island country’s population — are “food insecure and require humanitarian assistance”.

Rajapaksa’s successor Ranil Wickremesinghe has cracked down on anti-government protesters and banned demonstrations in much of the capital.

This month, his government struck a conditional agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a $2.9-billion bailout.

The lifeline is dependent on Colombo reaching a deal with creditors to restructure its external debt mountain of around $51 billion.

Its biggest creditor China has so far not publicly shifted from its offer of issuing more loans instead of taking a cut on outstanding ones.

Get Latest World News along with Latest News from Indiaat Hindustan Times.

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Payout delays constrain Health ministry – Newsday Zimbabwe

LATE disbursement of funds is constraining the Health and Child Care ministry’s operations, it has been revealed.

Health ministry’s acting finance director Lynette Tennis yesterday told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health during a workshop for legislators monitoring special drawing rights (SDR) projects that very little funds were being disbursed from the 2022 health budget.

The workshop was facilitated by the Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust.

“The releases have been too little to make an impact to whatever we have to do as the Ministry of Health to achieve our mandate. The hospitals have not been getting support from the Ministry of Finance and as we move forward we received a circular in August that made it worse saying there is need for due diligence to be taken for all procurement that is being done. We are yet to get responses for whatever we submitted to them,” Tennis said.

“Funds have not been coming to the ministry, releases have been too little for the ministry, and we have not been getting support from Treasury. We managed to get 11% of our capital budget and we always ask when the other is going to come.”

“From August 1 to date we haven’t received any release from the Finance ministry which goes towards the financing of hospitals. However, we had other areas of concern that include medical gas and the blood programme.

“When it comes to the procurement of medicine, we still have challenges because things are not moving and the money is not coming. The Finance ministry is not releasing funds, they cite cash-flow challenges. We appeal to the Parliamentary Portfolio on Health for assistance.”

She said the situation at the country’s hospitals was dire because the ministry last received funds for district hospitals in April.

On research programmes, Tennis said none took place at hospitals due to lack of funding.

Director in the Health and Child Care ministry Frank Chiku said: “At Parirenyatwa Hospital, which is our biggest referral hospital, there was an allocation of $800 million and nothing has been disbursed. Repairs cannot be done; transformers and toilets cannot be repaired. We have been requesting money since February and nothing is coming, there are no funds being released to us, we have not been given any amount.”

Chiku said the Parirenyatwa laundry and incinerator facilities needed to be improved.

“Some district hospitals to date have zero disbursements.  Even from the 2022 budget we did not get the full funds that we were allocated.”

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube allocated $117,7 billion (14,9%) of the $968,2 billion 2022 national budget to the Health ministry.

Zimbabwe received US$961 million SDR funds in August last year. Government said the SDR funds would be deployed towards productive sectors including industry, agriculture, mining, infrastructure investment and roads, among others.

 Follow Harriet on Twitter @harrietchikand1

 

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How to repair trust in health care – POLITICO

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The pandemic may not be to blame for Americans’ lack of faith in medicine.

Confidence in the medical health system fell hard this year: In 2022, only 38 percent of Americans said they trusted the system, down from 44 percent in 2021, according to pollster Gallup. That would seem to confirm the conventional wisdom that U.S. health care took a big hit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But more than two decades of Gallup data show that trust in health care spiked at the pandemic’s outset and has now returned to the modern norm’s low levels.

That’s not good. The problem is intractable, and the solutions are hard to envision.

But we’ll give it a shot.

NUMBERS GAME

Faith in the health care system spiked in 2020, rising nearly 10 percentage points higher than it was in any year since 2001 in Gallup’s survey as Americans rallied behind medical workers fighting Covid-19.

The return to the recent normal – and low – levels of trust may be less a Covid story and more a reflection of a broader crumbling of confidence in American institutions that includes the media, organized religion and the government.

What can we do about it? 

There are no easy fixes, but some things can be done to restore trust, numerous experts we spoke to said. Here are four of their suggestions:

  • Prioritize improved care for groups experiencing disparate outcomes and establish a dedicated leadership team. Deepening engagement in the community can also help build trust.
  • Help ease financial anxiety by expanding health insurance coverage while increasing price transparency.
  • Digital health technology can provide more touch points for providers to build lasting relationships with patients. 
  • Reforming the for-profit health care model could help remove one reason people suspect providers have an ulterior motive.

Mandy Cohen, North Carolina’s top health official during the Covid-19 pandemic, emphasized using trusted messengers.

“We partnered with many different folks in all walks of life, everything from Richard Petty in NASCAR to Rev. William Barber in the African American faith community,” Cohen said. “We thought about simplifying the message but also who was delivering that message.”

Ideas are aplenty, but implementation is another matter. We’ll keep our eye on Gallup’s poll to see what the future holds.

WELCOME TO FUTURE PULSE

This is where we explore the ideas and innovators shaping health care, and where Carmen, whose hair decided to go gray early, hopes the gray-hair-don’t-care trend is here to stay.

Share news, tips and feedback with Ben at [email protected], Ruth at [email protected] or Carmen at [email protected]

Send tips securely through SecureDrop, Signal, Telegram or WhatsApp.

TECH MAZE

Why your new doctor may not know your medical history:

Seamless access to and sharing of medical records promises huge benefits for patients when they switch doctors or see specialists. But delays in making it mandatory, despite a congressional directive, underscore that it’s not imminent.

The case for it is clear: Patients will gain if they can shop around and know their records will follow them. There’s also less chance a new doctor will make a mistake if they know a patient’s history.

Congress saw the benefits when it mandated data sharing in a 2016 law, the 21st Century Cures Act.

But nearly six years later, a provision barring providers from hoarding patient records isn’t fully rolled out and advocates for doctors and hospitals are lobbying for a further delay.

Why so slow? HHS finalized the information sharing rule on March 9, 2020, just as the world was shutting down to fight Covid-19. It delayed implementation during the pandemic, but the deadline is coming in nine days.

The American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and other medical industry groups wrote that they want another year in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and National Coordinator for Health IT Micky Tripathi yesterday.

The organizations cited technical challenges. Vendors, they explained, are behind providers because HHS set deadlines that didn’t align for them.

Tripathi cast doubt on any delay in a statement to Future Pulse: “We don’t believe patients or providers can afford to wait any longer.”

WORLD VIEW

BEYOND PANDEMICS IN AFRICA — The recently established World Bank pandemic preparedness fund aims to help low- and middle-income countries — many in Africa — respond to major health crises.

Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, the acting director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said the goal should be to head them off before they become crises.

Africa needs help building institutions at the ground level to improve health care and respond quickly to disease outbreaks, Ogwell Ouma said.

The focus of the rich world on Covid-19, and the donations it sent to Africa to fight the virus, struck many African public health experts as too prescriptive. They would have preferred more flexibility to use the funding to combat long-standing plagues like HIV.

The UN recently reported that the 1.5 million new HIV infections worldwide last year, a million more than the global goal, was a major setback in the effort to end AIDS by 2030.

A measles outbreak in Zimbabwe, driven by a drop in immunizations during the Covid pandemic, has killed more than 700 children. And Ebola is spreading in Uganda.

A different strategy: To build the institutions he envisions, Ogwell Ouma argues that African governments need to train experts, not only in public health, but also in legal and social issues.

And he would also like to see African governments and businesses expand their own efforts to improve pandemic preparedness and response.

“We need to ensure that we start domestically before you go out,” he said. When governments set priorities at home, it’s easy to channel international funds to those instead of being imposed by donors based on their interests, he said.

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