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Legio Maria Church Controversial Proclamations of ‘Holy Water’, Covid-19 Cure

Raphael Adika, a Pope of a faction of the Legio Maria church, has been on the record calling on the government of Kenya to obtain vaccines and urged members to follow Covid-19 containment protocols.

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By Josiah Odanga

A section of African Church Mission devotees_ the Legio Maria church based at Got Kwer in Migori County, Kenya, have proclaimed knowledge in the treatment of the deadly Corona virus.

Even though, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not announced any cure for Covid-19, the sect has extreme faith in a ‘holy water’, which is at the center of their worship.

The indigenous African church founded in 1964 by Melkio Ondeto, the Messiah and founder of Legio Maria. It as a splinter group of the Roman Catholic Church.

The cure claims, by these believers, is being spread by word of mouth and through social media pages’ posts and interactions; giving birth to perfect echo chambers for disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.

In about ten Facebook pages, including the; ‘Legion Maria African Church Mission,’ ‘Truth and Truth,’ ‘the Legion Maria of African Church Mission,’ and ‘Kinda Rosary,’ among others. The believers, who debate mainly in Dholuo language say, they have a cure for all illnesses and that Covid-19 is not special.

In diverse dates, one of the sect members Benard Omondi, in a Facebook post claimed that he had had a vision on how to treat Coronavirus.

“It was revealed to me that we need to arm ourselves with blue and green candles and boiled water, then pray through Mama Maria and Cathorina. I was told to give the boiled water to the priest to bless it before giving it to coronavirus patients to drink and bathe with for seven days… That is the coronavirus cure,” claimed Omondi.

The controversial message gained traction, with his followers commenting in the affirmative, and the post was shared in two of the Legio echo chambers.

Holy Water

The holy water is sourced from sacred places. Some water is fetched in Bukoba Rural District within Kagera Region to the east by Lake Victoria in Tanzania. While other believers fetch the water in Lake Simbi Nyaima, a tiny Crater Lake measuring about one kilometre in radius, located close to Kendu Bay town in Homa Bay county and Mberere area in Nandi county in Kenya. Lake Simbi Nyaima is believed to have a healing effect based on luo community folklores.

The water which is referred to as yath (medicine) or pii hawi (water that brings luck) in the local dialect, is often squirted into the mouths of believers from a squeezed plastic bottle.

In a telltale event, a 25-year-old Priest Patrick Janes Odhiambo, known as Janabi spoke a fortnight ago, at Mberere Legio Maria shrine, at the foot of Nandi Hills, along the border of Kisumu and Nandi counties, concurred with Omondi’s notion that the water heals. Janabi ministers at St. Peters Church in Homa Bay County.

“It is true that this water cures many illnesses. As Legio faithful, we have various departments and Cathorina is in-charge of health. A Legio devotee should never be treated in a hospital, no matter the situation. Yath cures corona for us because this is what we use and heal. We only follow Covid-19 containment protocols because it is a government directive.”

He added, “We believe that water from this spring in Mberere cures even gonorrhea, skin rashes and HIV/AIDs. All illnesses are curable in the name of Bikra Maria (Virgin Mary). Every colour of a candle represents an angel. The green one is for Cathorina.”

At Mberere shrine, motorcycle transport operators (bodaboda) trooped in, with 20-liter jerrycans to fetch ‘medicine’ from the unique spring within – an indication of the high demand.

The bodaboda operators are sent by the priests who remain at Kopere, a nearby market center. The priests fear being attacked by the residents of Nandi community, who accuse the sect members of transmitting Covid-19 virus to their Mberere village.

coronavirus is satanic

According to Samson (not his real name), a senior Legio Maria official in Kenya and a member of Pope Lawrence Ochieng Kalul’s faction, coronavirus is satanic but they already have immunity, thanks to the ‘holy water’. The Legio Maria church has been in the recent past embroiled in a leadership tussle, hence members hold divergent ethical principles.

“The current happenings (Covid-19 pandemic) had been revealed to us in prior by God. We already have immunity against it becaue we use the holy water. We are fighting the devil which emerged from the waters,” he said.

Extreme faith in religion.

Samson believes that closing churches as a containment measure is to surrender to the devil. He opined that their members who got infected by the virus were healed using their ‘medicine.’

“Covid-19 can do us nothing. We cannot mix our water with soil (vaccine),” he proclaimed.

On the other hand, Peter Omondi Oruka, a Legio Maria clergy of St Lukas in Kibra, Nairobi embodies the foregoing proclamations to extreme faith in religion.

Differing with his peers, Oruka said: “Covi-19 is a new disease and the church does not conduct research. Therefore, we cannot say that it cures Covid-19. We are following the laid down containment protocols, namely; wearing of face masks, washing hands and conducting three worship sessions, instead of two, just to ensure social distancing.”

“I have been to Mberere myself. The younger generation of Legio faithful are liberal. They know that there are things that you heal by faith and that there are things like Covid-19 that cannot be cured,” said Lawyer Okoth Opondo, a former Legio altar boy. The lawyers’ father was a close associate of Melkio Ondeto, the Messiah and founder of Legio Maria.

According to a 2009 academic research paper titled, ‘Believing in the Black Messiah: The Legio Maria Church in African Christian Landscape’, healing and exorcism play a prominent role in Legio Maria worship.

The paper found out that over 60% of those who join the church do so because they believe in being healed from witchcraft and ‘western’ illnesses. In Kenya, there are several people, both religious and secular, who shun coronavirus vaccines and protocol on grounds that it is a ‘Whiteman’s disease’, and so, a western illness.

The intrigues, misinformation and disinformation on Covid-19 is damn revealing. As Vincent Otieno, 31, a labourer at a construction site in Oyugis town stated.

“Masks are cheaper these days but I must not wear them because I am a black man. That disease can only harm wazungu (white people). Covid-19 cannot penetrate this dark skin of mine. The tough nature of my job also keeps the virus at bay,” he remarked.

When Covid-19 set in, some locals clashed with the police for not wearing face masks over what they said was hard economic times. However, today many people wear the masks improperly, on their chin – some keep them in pockets, and only rush to cover their mouths when a police officer is spotted in the vicinity.

There is no science behind the Legio Maria’s ‘medicine’.

Raphael Adika, a Pope of a faction of the Legio Maria church, has been on the record calling on the government of Kenya to obtain vaccines and urged members to follow Covid-19 containment protocols.

Lately, the church has experienced bloody leadership wrangles and believers in the other faction, led by Pope Lawrence Ochieng Kalul, take no instructions from Pope Adika, and vice versa.

Church and Vaccine Issues

Not much is in the public domain from Pope Ochieng on matters Covid-19 containment and vaccines. Our efforts to reach him on phone proved futile as our calls went unanswered.

The Legio Maria church claim that they are the true Roman Catholics, only that their worship doctrines have been Africanized. Elements in the Roman Catholic church have been on the record opposing the use of vaccines.

“The Legio recognize the pope of Rome. They conduct their services in Dholuo, Kiswahili, English and Latin; just the same services as in a catholic church. When Pope Francis visited Kenya, the Legio church respected and followed the proceedings,” Lawyer Opondo explained.

The Legio Maria is headquarted in Migori county Kenya. The devolved government led by Governor Okoth Obado recognizes that there are lots of rumours around Covid-19 vaccines and is leveraging on local media to educate the public.

“There are a lot of rumours being peddled, especially against the vaccine. We urge our people to turn out for vaccination once they are availed by the government,” said Migori County Executive Committee in charge of health Rtd. Col. Kepher Nyamita.

 

[This story was produced as part of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting’s (IWPR) Africa Resilience Network (ARN) Programme, administered in partnership with the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR), the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and Africa Uncensored].

 

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Mombasa Health Workers Threaten A Go Slow Due To Delayed Salaries

“According to the statistics that was done last, it was confirmed that more than 40 doctors working in Coast General Hospital have contracted corona viruses and all these doctors are paying for their treatment. For those who have the national cover, it is not always active because of salary reduction,” said Shaban.

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Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho

By Jane Mwanza

Mombasa health workers have threatened to down their tools if the County government does not pay the delayed salaries of November and December among other pending issues.

Earlier this week, the doctors through KPMDU Coast branch secretary general Dr. Nassir Shabban issued a strike notice to the county government for not being able to implement last year’s agreement.

KMPDU General Secretary expressed disappointment that the county had failed to fulfill  their agreement. Among issues raised is registering the doctors for the medical cover National Hospital Insurance Fund(NHIF), Promotions for the doctors, the doctors also seek that those hired on contract to be employed on a permanent basis.

“we are not going to go back to work until we come to a written agreement or otherwise we will be having recurrent monthly pay NHIF for the doctors, salary issues, promotion of the workers to a permanent and pensionable terms” said Dr. Shaban, in reference to  last year’s signed agreement.

More than 80 doctors working in Coast General Hospital do not have medical cover, said the Secretary. He divulged that at least 40 of them were confirmed to be infected with covid-19 and despite the medics being front line they are forced to pay for their treatment.

“According to the statistics that was done last, it was confirmed that more than 40 doctors working in Coast General Hospital have contracted corona viruses and all these doctors are paying for their treatment. For those who have the national cover, it is not always active because of salary reduction,” said Shaban.

In the statement that were released on Wednesday last week, the Kenya Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentist Union blame Mombasa County Governor Hassan Joho for not being able to solve the challenges they face. Dr Shaban did not take it lightly on the issue of the County governor hosting big new year events in the county. “He has invited top artists both local and international to perform at our expense,” he observed, and adding that, “This is not fair, we are not going to tolerate this where the governor can invert and pay musicians to afford and can’t pay them, meaning the county has the money but just doesn’t want to pay us.”

The affected areas are Coast General Hospital, Mla Leo Health Centre, Portrz hospital, Tudor sub-county hospital Likoni Hospital and Utange service will be stopped completely come Tuesday if the County government do not address their demand by Monday mid night and only those in critical patients in ICU will be attended.

They ask the Mombasa residents to seek the medical service to private’s hospitals starting Tuesdays because the government health care and hospitals will be completely paralyzed.

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Please pay your pending bills, KEMSA Board appeals to County Governments

The KEMSA Board also held a roundtable meeting with officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya, Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry (KAPI) Kenya Dental Association and the Kenya Health Care Federation (KHF).

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Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) board has issued a passionate appeal asking several county governments to prioritise settlement of more than Kshs 3.9 Billion pending bills to the Authority.

Speaking when she addressed stakeholders in the Pharmaceutical sector and Medical Associations, KEMSA Chairperson Mary Mwadime said the settlement of the bills would help accelerate reforms at the Authority.

She said some county governments had extended much-needed support to KEMSA by prioritising the settlement of bills to keep the Authority’s cogwheels running as the organisational reforms to address systemic challenges progress.

She said the Board would undertake the reforms in strict compliance to due process and labour laws as the Board is committed to remedying challenges’ currently bedevilling the Authority.

During the latest round of engagements on Monday, the KEMSA Board and the Authority’s Acting Chief Executive Officer Edward Njoroge updated the Senate Committee on Health members led by Senator Michael Mbito. The KEMSA Board also held a roundtable meeting with officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya, Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry (KAPI) Kenya Dental Association and the Kenya Health Care Federation (KHF).

Last week, the KEMSA Board paid courtesy calls to the Kisumu, Kisii, Nyamira and Uasin Gishu County Governments. The Board also engaged the National Assembly Committee on Health and the Development Partners for Health in Kenya (DPH-K). The DPH-K comprises stakeholders and representatives from the World Health Organisation, Global Fund, USAID, CDC, UNAIDS, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and World Bank.

At the meetings, Ms Mwadime reiterated that the Authority was complying with a court order and had not declared any roles redundant nor handed over KEMSA’s leadership to external agencies. She added that operations at the Authority are proceeding under a business-as-usual model with a business continuity plan to avoid any disruptions.

“We have assured our stakeholders that our operations are proceeding on as usual and the Board and Core Management remain firmly in place,” She said, adding that, “A dysfunctional KEMSA slows down healthcare delivery goals and is a liability to the envisaged positive national healthcare outcomes and the Board is committed to facilitating reforms to set the Authority on a recovery path. This will include structured engagements with several county governments to settle their outstanding bills amounting to more than Kshs 6 Billion,” she said.

KMPDU Secretary-General Dr Davji Bhimji speaking after the KEMSA engagement, expressed optimism that the Authority will undertake the envisaged reforms lawfully.

He said the Board had assured stakeholders and KPMDU members that due process would be followed and staff members will not be victimised.

“We have been given detailed information on the reforms and have been assured that the role of professional stakeholders in the healthcare value chain will be mainstreamed in the reform agenda. We are ready to engage with KEMSA to ensure efficient supply of drugs and other items from KEMSA stores to health facilities,” Dr Bhimji said.

Last week, KEMSA Board confirmed that operations had been sustained through the core management and staffing team. If necessary, the core KEMSA Management Team will be assisted by a multi-agency team drawn from public sector experts.

The multi-agency officers will be drawn from the Public Service Commission, State Corporations Advisory Committee (SCAC), Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Service and Gender Affairs, Ministry of Information, Communication, Technology and Youth Affairs, Ministry of Defence, The National Treasury and the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government among others.

The reforms at the Authority are part of the far-reaching recommendations outlined in several KEMSA restructuring reports, including the latest KEMSA Immediate Action Plan and Medium Term Reforms Working Committee (KIAPRWC) report. Commissioned by the Board, the KIAPRWC report revealed challenges in critical functions.

The report confirms that KEMSA is grossly underperforming and largely unable to meet clients’ urgent needs, particularly the delivery of essential Medicines and Products to the Counties, Referral Hospitals and Programs.

The Authority is suffering from below-par productivity, with the order fill rate standing at 18% against a target performance of over 90%. KEMSA’s order turn-around time is an average of 46 days.

KEMSA is also suffering from a developing debtor and creditor crisis and is currently owed Ksh. 6.4 Billion by its clients, who are primarily county governments. The Authority owes its creditors Ksh. 4.5 Billion and is operating at 170% above its approved staff establishment of three hundred and forty-one (341) with an estimated staff complement of 922. Pool

The Board, Ms Mwadime said, is committed to facilitating the necessary reforms to ensure that KEMSA challenges are sufficiently addressed. This commitment includes aligning the organisational structure to industry-accepted standards for a health commodities and technologies procurement organisation. It also calls for the introduction of global best practices, including transparent reporting relationships, an acceptable span of control, and command structures, compounding related functions for strengthened accountability and a re-determination of optimal staffing levels and norms.

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Health

KEMSA Creates Regional Medical Supply Centers To Spur Efficiency in the Counties

Through the decentralised system, KEMSA’s Kisumu distribution zone serves nineteen counties. Mombasa serves six counties, and Meru serves 11 counties in the Northern frontier, with other counties served from the Nairobi central stores.

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Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA),  a state corporation under the Ministry of Health has put up measures to expedite medical supplies to Counties across the Country.

The State Agency observed that it has undertaken extensive integrity adjustments at KEMSA.  In new move,  all prospective suppliers to the Authority, including local manufacturers and disadvantaged groups (AGPO), are required to maintain very high ethical operating standards.

Acting Chief Executive Officer Mr Edward Njoroge opined,  ” As KEMSA’s transformation strategy, the Authority has established and sufficiently resourced its four decentralised distribution centres located in Kisumu, Mombasa, Meru and Nairobi.”

Through the decentralised system, KEMSA’s Kisumu distribution zone serves nineteen counties. Mombasa serves six counties, and Meru serves 11 counties in the Northern frontier, with other counties served from the Nairobi central stores.

All orders procedurally placed with the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) will be promptly processed and dispatched to clients in less than a week, Mr Njoroge assured.

Leading the dispatch process of a Kshs 64 Million order placed last week by the Kitui County Government, Njoroge reiterated that to boost operating efficiency, the Authority is banking on its superior supply chain management experience and infrastructure including warehousing and robust information technology systems.

Kitui County  Governor Charity Ngilu described KEMSA services and solutions as cost-efficient and professional.

She lauded the state agency and appreciatesd the support extended by KEMSA in ensuring that the devolved medical facilities continue to enjoy cost-efficient and professional services to keep all our health facilities up and running.

Noteworthy, Under a dedicated operating model tuned to ensure on-time supply of crucial medical supplies, KEMSA has maintained a more than 98% service availability level to more than 8,000 public health centres in the 47 counties countrywide.

The agency boss also explained the financial controls,  supplier controls as well as ethical standards in handling public and donor funds. He assured of strict procurement processes that meet a legal and business threshold as provided by Procurement Act.

“All our stakeholders can rest assured that we have instituted various covert and overt oversight frameworks to guard against the loss of taxpayers and donor funds through procurement processes manipulation,” Njoroge said.

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