The Sunday Mail
Fatima Bulla and Veronica Gwaze
THE life of an eight-year-old boy from Budiriro is under serious threat and the boy’s mother doesn’t seem to care.
“Our faith does not allow us to go to hospital no matter what. If God allows, he can die. It will not be the first, everywhere there are graveyards,” said the mother.
Is this what religion can do to people?
The boy’s parents are members of the African Apostolic Sect of Johanne Marange. They are adamant that even if the boy is sick, they will not take him to hospital for treatment.
As a result, since the schools opened for the third term, the boy has only managed to attend lessons for four days.
Last week, the boy tried to attend lessons, but had to be taken home after falling sick.
The boy is said to be suffering from tonsilitis as he is struggling to speak while the mother said he had stomach problems.
Upon visiting the home in Budiriro, the mother who only identified herself as Mrs Marira told The Sunday Mail Society that it was better for her child to die than seek medical help which was against the beliefs aligned to her church.
“I thought that you were medical officials who had come from the hospital to treat my child. I was going to refuse and tell you that our beliefs do not subscribe to that,” she said.
The Johanne Marange sect requires members to seek healing through prayer and faith forsaking conventional medical methods.
A source who tipped The Sunday Mail Society said the child continued to see lesser and lesser days in school spending his time at home without the parents seeking medical attention.
They added that it was worrying how the parents were not moved by the sickly condition of their child.
“It’s worrying to see a child going through such experiences due to the beliefs of the parents. His condition is worrying and we hear the child is being given holy water.
“At one time the teacher was made to understand that the boy was receiving treatment only to discover that it was the holy water they get from the church that he was being prescribed to take,” the source said.
The issue of religion infringing on children’s rights mainly to education and health has been the subject of debate for many years.
Many apostolic sects have denied their children access tos immunisation with many risking their children’s lives.
The Government in the past years has moved in through various ministries, for instance Health and Child Care, to work with such religious groups to bring awareness on the challenges of barring children from their right to access health.
And indications were that, the initiative has made great strides as some Apostolic sects were beginning to co-operate.
The Union for Development of Apostolic Church in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA) came up with the Apostolic Strategic Action Plan for 2014-2016 to encourage member denominations to promote the well-being of children.
Last year the association was quoted in the media highlighting that they were making headway to ensure that children enjoyed their rights.
Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare legal and professional advisor Precious Sibiya called the nation to prompt action in safeguarding the rights of children.
“That child is defined as a child in need of care and as such is vulnerable. It then calls for the Department of Social Welfare to act expeditiously because the child is in danger and at risk,” she said.
United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) communications specialist Elizabeth Bessie Mupfumira said they are working together with the Social Welfare Department to ensure children’s rights are upheld.
Explaining their operations she said: “The Childline accesses the situation and we capacitate the Childline. In some cases we even have to involve the police force to rescue the minors,” she said.
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Article 3 which provides for the best interests of the child states: “The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. This particularly applies to budget, policy and law makers.”
In addition Article 6, which focuses on the survival and development of a child, highlights the role of the Government saying: “Children have the right to live. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.”