Health officials in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland Province say they have finally made a breakthrough in the region as some apostolic faith members are now taking western medicine. The vapostori sect has over the years shunned this medicine saying it is against their religious beliefs.
There are almost 3.3 million people in the country believed to be Apostolic faith followers with some of them widely viewed as members of the indigenous vapostori, a distinct group of worshippers talented in weaving baskets and making pots, dishes and related utensils using scrap metal.
At one stage, they were almost dominating all spheres of life in Zimbabwe as they took control of the black money market between 2002 and 2009. They took advantage of the weak local currency, which was ditched in 2009, to become illegal money dealers mostly in urban areas like Harare, Gweru, Kwekwe, Harare, Mutare, Beitbridge and other towns and cities.
Despite this great innovativeness, which quickly vanished into thin air soon after the introduction of multiple currencies six years ago, most of them have always strongly opposed the taking of western medicine. They have been relying mainly on God’s Holy Spirit, water and intensely hot stones for healing various illnesses.
But this has over the years taken its toll on newly-born children and other members of the vapostori sect, who have died of diseases like cholera, AIDS, measles, dysentery and others. For vapostori member, Catherine Mumbure of Nyanga, this kind of life is unsustainable.
This is what the Ministry of Health has been trying to enforce over the years and a breakthrough in Manicaland region’s Nyanga, Chipinge and Mutasa districts is a giant leap towards enhancing modern health standards among the vapostori sect.
Indications are that some male vapostori members are now referring their wives to hospitals and clinics for pre-natal care services and deliveries unlike in the past when they were large numbers of home deliveries, which resulted in high numbers of deaths among women and newly-born kids.
Thanks to a program introduced by the Ministry of Health and Plan Zimbabwe, known as ‘Women and Their Children’s Health’ (WATCH).
Mutare District nurse, Margaret Guwira, told a strategic Plan Zimbabwe meeting reviewing this program that the vapostori faith members, who used to resist medical services are now willing to access western medicine and send women to deliver babies at modern health facilities.
She said they are recording an increase in the number of expecting mothers at local clinics and hospitals.
Angeline Gwasira, a senior nurse in Mutasa District, also noted that it is pleasing that members of this sect are visiting a pregnant mothers’ waiting shelter set up with the assistance of Plan Zimbabwe.
Plan Zimbabwe’s chief clinical officer, Stanislaus Dawa, said the WATCH programme was set up in 2011 with a view of reducing home deliveries, which were claiming a large number of women giving birth and their babies.
Following the launch of this program in 2011, Plan Zimbabwe, with funding from the Canadian Embassy and its partners, managed to train about 1,162 village health workers in an effort to promote good health practices in Manicaland province.
The health workers were given mobile phones, bicycles and medical kits for conducting their community activities.
According to district health officials, some local people and implementers of the health scheme, the program, which targeted Mutare, Mutasa and Chipinge districts, is believed to be a big success. It has since been handed over to the government of Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care.