DISASTER: 9 family members die after complaining of sore throats as church forbids medical care

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A tragic string of deaths has gripped one rural Zimbabwean village, prompting intense scrutiny. Over the past three weeks in Nyamakate village, nine members of the extended Mapuranga family fell ill and ultimately died after complaining of sore throats.

The deaths are notable not just due to their frequency within the family, but also because the Mapurangas adhere to religious beliefs that prevent seeking medical care or advice. Local Chief Abel Mbasera has condemned such prohibitions on healthcare access, which he argues violate citizens’ constitutional rights.

At the chief’s request, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health has launched an investigation. The most recent victim was three-year-old Ropafadzo Mapuranga, who passed on Sunday. Her relative Blessing Nyanyiwa had also recently perished. No autopsies were performed to determine causes of death.

When asked for comment, family spokesman Luke Mapuranga said the clan is too grief-stricken to discuss the matter at this time. Villagers also voiced ongoing shock over the string of losses. Chief Mbasera stressed that the identical symptoms suggest the deaths could have been prevented with treatment, and has taken steps to criminalize denying medical care due to religious belief.

Provincial health director Dr. Celestino Dhege is examining the situation but has yet to determine the root cause. Similar prior incidents have been linked to cholera after religious objections halted medical intervention. Going forward, officials and leaders seek to ensure all community members can access healthcare as needed.

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