Via allAfrica.com, a report from ThinkAfrica Press.com: Pentecostal Preachers Blamed for Polio Outbreak in Cameroon. Excerpt:
Douala - Last year, the government of Cameroon initiated a clampdown on illegal Pentecostal churches.
According to the government, there were around 500 Pentecostal churches operating in the country without a licence, and the authorities' lenience up to then had allowed "an anarchical proliferation of those churches, engaging in all kinds of negative, indecent and harmful practices."
The government accused the churches - which have mushroomed in popularity in recent years - of performing fake miracles, killing citizens in deadly exorcisms, and deceiving their congregations.
More recently, however, a new allegation was added to this list. Last year, Cameroon recorded four cases of wild poliovirus, the first since 2009, and officials at the Ministry of Health say Pentecostal pastors may be to blame.
Until October of last year, Cameroon seemed to be free of polio, a viral disease which assaults the central nervous system and can cause paralysis.
This was largely thanks to the success of vaccination campaigns. In fact, the sudden outbreak of new cases last year can only have been possible because some children had not been immunised, and many believe this lack of vaccination may have been because of hard-line Pentecostal doctrine which teaches that healing is a sign of the presence of God and that followers should therefore refrain from taking medicine.
"The first case was detected in a seven-year-old child, which is unusual because a seven-year-old should have been vaccinated," says Marie Ekobela, coordinator of the National Immunisation Programme in the Ministry of Health.
"The child belonged to a family in which the grandfather is an official with a Pentecostal church and who doesn't want to hear anything about vaccination. So this child was not immunised and when the virus arrives and infects an unvaccinated child, an epidemic is triggered."
That child would not have been the first. 15-year-old Delphine Manka'a, the daughter of a Pentecostal churchgoing mother in the city of Douala has not walked since she was two when she was struck by polio.
Paralysed in both legs, Manka'a has since been reliant on a wheelchair and crutches. She has still not forgiven her mother for denying her immunisation against the highly infectious and incurable disease.
"I wouldn't be paralysed if she had let me get the vaccine when I was young," she says, tearfully. "It was only after my case that she decided to go against the church belief which does not accept vaccination. My two brothers are all fine because they were vaccinated."