Insight: NIMR scoffs at witchcraft, denies Freemasonry links
Saturday, 02 March 2013
By Melard Karoza, The Citizen Correspondent
Mwanza. Health officials in Mwanza Region have warned against increasing tendency to associate research work in the Lake Zone with mythical beliefs and wicked notions like wrongly associating National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) with freemasonry.
The tendency is not only hurting medical researchers, but has also leads to many people and communities in the Lake Zone particularly in Mwanza to reject taking part in various studies being carried out by NIMR.
The refusal is based on wrong notions and wicked beliefs in the region that participating in research will be fatal and detrimental to those involved. The instilled freemasonry fear has led to many people refusing to volunteer in various researches undertaken by NIMR with the latest being projects on malaria and bilharzia.
According to the Mwanza regional medical officer Valentino Bangi, the notions, which have satanic connotations, have been a big challenge to research work and undermine efforts made to fight against major diseases. The immoral tendency is also playing another detrimental role of demoralising researchers, who now fear for slowing down progress in tackling malaria and bilharzia.
Dr Bangi says that the trend and fear mongering should be urgently addressed. According to him, religious leaders have a big role to play in that by sensitising their followers on the dreadful situation and educating them on the virtues of medical researches.
He said the ultimate loser of embracing the satanic beliefs would be the people themselves because the stalled research projects sought to address their health and medical problems.
Dr Bangi assured Mwanza residents and all members of the public in the lake zone that the rumours being spread about NIMR work were untrue and unfounded since NIMR’s activities were based on modern science. He said nobody had ever been forced to participate in researches since all studies were undertaken after consultation with respondents.
He challenged them to trace the history and track the record of the institute to be able to discover that NIMR had been around and doing good work for many years. Its work has since its establishment in 1979 greatly boosted national efforts to generate scientific information required in the development of better methods and techniques of enhancing disease management, prevention and control in the country.
For almost a year now, there have been speculations that NIMR is a freemasonic institution, which many wrongly believe and link it with all sorts of evil and criminality.
Its researchers warn that if the rumour mongering is not timely contained, the misinformation will have far-reaching outcomes, including unnecessary deaths of children, mothers and men whose lives could have been saved by NIMR interventions.
A recent study at Butimba District Hospital found profound existence of the wrong and satanic notions with many respondents saying they would not participate in the NIMR work. The widespread rumours include claims that women who get involved in the researches end up with vital parts like the placenta being taken away for freemasonry rituals.
The hospital, where NIMR does a lot of work, is increasingly being avoided by people in the area. Figures provided by the NIMR Lake Zone director, Dr John Changalucha, showed that the number of women attending obstetric services at the hospital dropped from nine per week to one.
He said the number of expectant mothers, who registered to deliver at the hospital decreased to 88 per cent from 99 per cent before satanic rumours began.
Dr Changalucha said the challenge they had as an institute stalling of research work due to failure to attract requisite numbers of respondents. For example, conducting research requiring 500 people with only 100 respondents was a failed venture and unacceptable.
He cautioned those behind the disinformation campaign that “they are not only pitting the people against the NIMR, but also harming the country as a whole since it depends a lot on the work of NIMR to further national medical plans and undertake health initiatives.”
NIMR was established to undertake the following functions: (i) carry out and promote the carrying out of medical research designed to alleviate disease among the people of Tanzania; (ii) carry out and promote the carrying out of research into various aspects of local traditional medical practices for the purpose of facilitating the development and application of herbal medicine; (iii) cooperate with the government or any person, or body of persons, in promoting or providing facilities for, the training of local personnel for carrying out scientific research into medical problems.
Alarmed by the rumours, church leaders in the region have vowed to support efforts being made to clear the air.
Pastor Lazaro Majerenga of the Anglican Church voiced the need to educate people on the matter, saying the right information on what NIMR was doing should be readily available. He said the situation could be worsened by lack of good relationships between research respondents and the institute’s personnel.
He said no stone should be left unturned to disassociate NIMR with the devilish beliefs that had also tarnished its image. According to him, time had come to use the media to publicise and promote the work and activities of the NIMR.
Pastor Majerenga said it was disheartening and astonishing to hear that the problem had become so big that some communities in Kahama and Mwanza had started refusing to be treated at public hospitals in Kahama and Nyamagana districts.
Pastor Joktan Malula from the African Inland Church (AIC) advised NIMR to take the matter seriously and involve all stakeholders to address the situation. He said it was not the first time for the institution to be associated with devilish myths since a similar scam was experienced in colonial days.
Pastor Macdonald Mabula of the Lutheran Church called on the researchers to thoroughly explain the merits of their work before conducting any research. According to him, they will always be misunderstood and misinterpreted whenever they try to impose their research on people.
The country’s largest public research institution is headquartered in Dar es Salaam and has centres Mwanza, Tabora, Tanga, and Mbeya where it conducts some of its studies.