The measles outbreak in Zimbabwe has killed 80 children since April, the health ministry said, blaming church sect gatherings for the increase.
The ministry said the outbreak has now spread across the country, with a fatality rate of 6.9%.
Health Secretary Jasper Chimedza said as of Thursday there had been 1,036 suspected cases and 125 confirmed cases, with Manicaland in eastern Zimbabwe accounting for the majority of infections.
“The ministry of health and child care wishes to inform the public that the ongoing outbreak of measles which was first reported on 10th of April has since spread nationwide following church gatherings,” Chimedza said in a statement.
“These gathering which were attended by people from different provinces of the country with unknown vaccination status led to the spread of measles to previously unaffected areas.”
Chimedza said Manicaland, the second most populous province, had 356 cases and 45 deaths.
He said most of the reported cases were in children aged six months to 15 years from religious communities who were not vaccinated against measles because of their religious beliefs.
In Zimbabwe, some apostolic church sects forbid their followers from taking vaccinations or any medical treatment. The churches attract millions of followers with their promises to heal illnesses and deliver people from poverty.
Due to low vaccination rates and no records in some cases, the government decided to launch massive vaccination campaigns in areas where the outbreak occurred.
The measles outbreak is expected to put pressure on a struggling health sector already grappling with drug shortages and intermittent strikes by health workers.