Page Nav




Classic Header

Solana Windscreens Zimbabwe

Breaking News:


TB headache in apostolic sects

PEBBLES and holy water were the only orthodox treatment she could take, at least according to the Johane Marange doctrine. Seeking health...

PEBBLES and holy water were the only orthodox treatment she could take, at least according to the Johane Marange doctrine.

Seeking health care would be taboo as ‘shewe’ (her husband) and the church elders would have none of it.

Even after enduring a three-month persistent cough, she could not take cough syrup or anything for the pain.

Shupikai (not her real name) had been in Masvingo where she had gone to nurse her daughter who had tested TB positive.

When she returned home in Macheke after the four-month stay, she wouldn’t stop coughing, lost a bit of weight and had night sweats even on a cold night.

With all these symptoms, she still could not access a health facility because the church wouldn’t allow her to.
TB headache in apostolic sects
“I felt really sick but all I could use were muteuro nematombo. My sister then invited me over to her house in Marondera and after spending the night at her place and seeing how sick I was, she took me to the clinic the next day.

“I was tested for TB among other tests. I was found to be TB positive and started on treatment and for two months I stayed with my sister as she monitored my progress,” chronicles the 50-year-old mother of five.

When it was time to go back home, she says her headache was how she would be able to keep her medication without shewe noticing.

“By the time I went back home I was feeling much better and was determined to continue with treatment against all odds. Before leaving, I had been educated about the dangers of defaulting first line TB drugs so I told myself I would finish treatment against all odds before being referred to the nearest clinic in my area.

“Back home, shewe even acknowledged that I was looking much better from what I was when I left. I told nurses at the local clinic about my predicament and how I shouldn’t be seen collecting the medication or else the church would deal with me.

“They really understood and we made an arrangement that I would pick them at night until I finished my course. At home I also made sure that I kept them away from shewe or else I would face the full wrath of his law,” she says.

“It was not easy but because I had told my daughter about the situation, she would sometimes remind me to take my medication.”

She acknowledges that while the church denies members to seek healthcare, medication was the best remedy for any disease management rather than ‘holy water and pebbles’.

Reminiscing on the cholera days back in 2008, Shupikai says she had lost a 15-year-old daughter as the head of the house would not allow her to seek treatment for the child.

“I watched her die and I still curse myself. Then shewe had cholera that same week our daughter died and now he was begging me to take him to the clinic, I refused and vowed that he would rather die just like how we lost my child.

“Fortunately or unfortunately health workers started a door-to-door campaign after they heard that there had been a cholera death in the area and that is how he got treated. You see, I wish we could do away with some of these rules in the church. I could have also died from TB if I had not accessed treatment.

“I don’t mean to be rebellious but it is mothers and children who suffer the most. Even when these men fall sick, they Nicodemously seek medical attention. So who are we cheating?” she argues.

Shupikai’s life mirrors that of several other members of ultra-conservative apostolic sects where seeking healthcare is taboo.

While she was brave enough to go against the church doctrine and sought treatment, deputy director of TB Control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Charles Sandy said there could be several missed cases of TB among this community.

He argues that while they are not immune to being infected by TB, they are a very hostile community when it comes to issues to do with healthcare and this posed a challenge in the country’s management of TB.

“There are very high chances that there may be missed TB cases in such communities due to obvious reasons. Since they do not practice modern medicine and they do not go to clinics or hospitals so there is no diagnosis being done to those who are ill so even if it’s TB no one would know.

“They usually are secretive when it comes to illness in their communities so it is usually not made public that a family member is not well.

“In most cases such communities are hostile to people who are not members of their religion so there is then no way an outsider would then know that there is any one suffering from TB in such
communities,” says Dr Sandy.

“Epidemiologically they are also not immune to being infected by TB as they are humans like any other people. So considering all the above they are very high chances that TB cases could be missed in these communities and the magnitude of the missed case is not known.”

Dr Sandy says the country mainly relied on engagement at all levels hence the programme makes all efforts to ensure that all communities are informed about TB through various means of communication, thus most communities take decisions from informed view point.

“The most available resource is to engage the husband and the church leaders so they understand the implications of that patient not taking treatment on the family, the husband included, as well as the congregation at large,” Dr Sandy said, in relation to Shupikai’s case.

TB remains the world’s most deadly infectious disease after HIV and although prevalence is reportedly coming down, TB burden is still at crisis level in the country.

TB is a treatable and curable disease. Active, drug-susceptible TB disease is treated with a standard six-month course of four antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer.

According to World Health Organisation, ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals.

In support of this goal to end the TB epidemic, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) through Challenge TB in Zimbabwe seeks to have TB put on the health agenda strategy and to also strengthen national level management capacity.

The Union director in Zimbabwe, Dr Christopher Zishiri says under Challenge TB in partnership with the National TB Programme, contact tracing, early diagnosis and active case finding are some of the effective ways of ending TB.
While Shupikai is grateful that she had TB detected early and had treatment, which she managed to complete, there could be several missed cases of TB among her community which could be an impediment in ending the TB epidemic by 2030