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Reaping the benefits of house-to-house vaccination 

There has been a feeling of despair and helplessness seeing the death toll from the measles epidemic continuing to soar.Our hearts and minds are with the families of the deceased, whose passing over the last few weeks got the death toll to hit 62, and we again appeal to families to take their children to the nearest health facility rather than seek traditional healers or alternative medicine due to the risks associated with delayed treatment. The Samoa government in an update on Wednesday advised that for the first time two adults were part of the overnight fatalities. The two adults – one between 20-29 years of age and the other 30-39 years – join a 37-year-old who died in the first week of the epidemic.The number of measles cases has also gone over the 4,000 threshold with the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) confirming that a total of 4,052 measles have now been reported to their Disease Surveillance Team since the outbreak.With the death toll threatening to get to the century mark, it is hoped the government’s two-day shutdown on Thursday and Friday will reap rewards and arrest more measles-related fatalities in the immediate future, as civil servants join MOH staff and international medical emergency teams to increase Samoa’s immunisation coverage through a house-to-house vaccination programme.The misinformation spread by anti-vaccination groups are some of the major factors behind families opting to take their sick children to traditional healers and proponents of alternative medicine. The M.O.H. recently warned families of the dangers of late medical interventions, due to the parents of sick children opting for alternative treatment.“We are trying our best to give out information so that parents will understand and make informed decisions in terms of treatment,” said the M.O.H. Director General, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri.“We are very concerned about people getting influenced easily with outside treatments, our country wants fast solutions like getting a massage today and recover tomorrow but the majority of these diseases need time to fight against the body.”We believe locally-based anti-vaccination groups and individuals or even those using social media to propagate alternative forms of treatment should be arrested and charged under state of emergency laws for being a danger to public health.The actions of anti-vaccination groups or individuals as well as those promoting alternative treatment is creating confusion and a loss of confidence in the health system, which can have fatal consequences for individuals and families during the epidemic.Therefore, we applaud the decision by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi for taking the lead in his government’s house-to-house vaccination programme, when he and members of his Cabinet were vaccinated in the Cabinet Office and their photos distributed on the government’s social media page.As residents and citizens living in a country currently plagued by a public health crisis that has already claimed 62 lives and more by the end of the day, we have a responsibility to share correct information from official sources that will save lives, and not disempower families and individuals and place them in an even more precarious position.Early in the week the government lifted the vaccination restrictions to vulnerable groups to include older adults up to the age of 60, drawing praise from members of the community who were concerned that even the elderly were unprotected.Vaccination statistics released by the government on December 3 show that as of Monday this week a total of 25,058 residents have been vaccinated out of a target population of 44,649. And in the most vulnerable group under 4 years of age, less than 2,000 children in Savai’i have received vaccination. Out of a total population of over 200,000 over 55 per cent of the country’s population or 110,000 have been vaccinated since October 1.The above statistics show that a lot more needs to be done to save lives and we can only hope that the two-day government shutdown will ultimately reap rewards in the end. Samoa has entered uncharted waters, hence let’s pray the fatalities will gradually end and the mass vaccination programme now underway will translate to better health outcomes, for this nation and its people over the long-term period.Let us all take care in these trying times and God bless us all.

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Street Talk

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Public support ban of children from church services

Alofa Isaia, 25, AfegaI think there should be a ban on young children from attending church services as they are the ones most vulnerable to measles. Keeping them at home is the best option in order to lessen the risks of spreading the virus. If the children are allowed in church this will make the measles spread to other children and make them sick. For us adults we can handle the pain but the children cannot and this is why I totally support the ban on children from church services.Fotu Faafetai, 37, SavaiiI totally support the ban on children from church services to prevent the measles from spreading from one child to another. Measles can spread fast and affect everyone and the children are the most vulnerable. Church service is a part of our everyday life but the health of our children is more important to us. I have children as well and I know how painful it will be if my child got the measles and loses his or her life.Aisepka Lokeni, 57, Nu’uWe should listen to the advice from the church ministers to ban children from attending church services, as the risk of them spreading the measles to other kids is high. The Bible says we have to obey our leaders, and that is why we should listen to our leaders and save our children and vulnerable people from dying. I totally support the ban to prevent measles from spreading even faster.John Ale, 50, Vaitele FouI support the ban on children from attending church service because this will prevent measles from getting spread to other children, and getting the other children infected. We all want to go to church, but going to church service with children who have measles – they will only spread it and this will affect other children, and the disease will spread.Fotulafai Reupena, 61, Vaitele FouI take off my hat to the government for the decision to ban children from attending church services and public areas due to the measles outbreak. We should protect them from the virus. I read media reports of many children losing their lives from measles, if this fatalities continue there could be no more young generation for Samoa. We have to protect our own children, and the children are the future of our country. Faititili Tipasa, 40, AfegaI totally support the ban on children from church because I know that the children are the ones most affected by the measles. I prefer children not attend any church service as they can be easily affected if they still go and it will lead to more infections. Ensuring the children stay home will prevent measles from spreading, and protect other children infection. 

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Letter to Editor

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China and developments at Mulifanua

Kevin Hart’s letter of 03 September complained about the Chinese being a likely buyer of Government’s shareholding in the Sheraton Samoa Resort at Mulifanua. Which raises the question; what is wrong with Chinese investors getting involved in tourism development in Samoa anyway especially when there isn’t much interest from elsewhere? Virtually every other country in the Pacific and the world including the US and Australia, China’s foremost critics have been enjoying the benefits of Chinese trade, investment, and tourism. So why not Samoa?Whether people like it or not, China will be a major player in the region, and it will only get worse with time for those who wish it otherwise. And in any case, one can’t do business with China as China’s critics do, and then seek to deny the Pacific Islands the same privilege by engaging in fearmongering about China’s intentions.  Samoa’s deputy prime minister called this bahaviour recently, patronizing and offensive. It is also dishonest. One would have thought that with colonialism still fresh in people’s minds, China’s detractors might have tried some more subtle way to make their case about China being a threat to Island nations. After all, these are nations that have only recently won back their own sovereignty from countries that are accusing China, a victim of colonialism itself, of malevolent intent in the Pacific.  Samoa’s prime minister made the point at the Pacific Island Forum that China is not an enemy of Samoa, which adheres to a “friend to all and enemy to none” approach to old and new comers alike to the region. The Pacific islands have legitimate economic needs and environmental interests that the former colonial powers in the Pacific have been unable to meet or in some cases totally ignored. Over the years, the Pacific Island nations have even been blamed for supposedly lagging in economic growth behind other parts of the world that receive similar levels of aid. But more recent work on the subject has confirmed what the Pacific Islands have known all along. And that is when you are small, highly fragmented and horribly isolated, your costs of attempting any form of economic activity are always going to be high no matter what you do.  China’s willingness and ability to help bridge this aid gap is welcomed therefore. It also helps that China has a different approach in its relations with the tiny and insignificant Pacific Island states and peoples. And it happens it’s an approach that the Pacific peoples themselves understand all too well and appreciate. Its an approach that recognizes the inherent dignity of peoples irrespective of colour, money and level of development. The result is that in spite of the fear mongering about China’s supposedly hidden agenda even in the face of evidence to the contrary, the Pacific Islands have seen no reason to believe this crude and offensive propaganda.  There appears to have been a notable increase lately in the number of visits by navy vessels and personnel from the US and Australia doing the usual public relations soft sell with various groups including school children. The visit on board these war machines and the helicopter rides for the children will have been the thrill of a lifetime for many. One suspects that we will be seeing more of these as the West sets out to contain the rise of Chinese influence in the region. The visits bring back to mind the colonial days of gun boat diplomacy in the Pacific when control of native populations was exercised mainly through the firepower of visiting warships when turned on native communities that failed to toe the line   Samoa’s prime minister is reported to have said recently in relation to the stepped-up competition that Samoa’s main interest and focus of diplomacy is to raise standards of living and provide for its people’s needs. In the circumstances, public relations and making friends with young people will only go so far in winning influence especially in the face of China’s hard cash. Airy catch phrases such as Step Up, (Australia), Pacific Uplift, (UK), something about Family? (US), can easily backfire. A meeting between Chinese leaders and Pacific Island leaders being hosted by Samoa in October this year should be quite an event especially at this time. It will most likely see among other things the unveiling of some new aid and trade initiative by China.   And as for Chinese interests possibly helping to bring more air services to Samoa, that too would be a welcome relief from the monopolistic practices of Air New Zealand, Virgin Airways and Fiji Airways, the three carriers that operate services in Samoa today. After being badly burnt in yet another one-sided partnership with an Australian carrier, the Samoan government did the right thing for Samoa in starting up Samoa Airways in spite of the risks and poor timing. When Polynesian Airlines started international services to New Zealand in the late 1970s, it did so mainly on the strength of Samoa’s own ethnic traffic between the two countries. The airline did well even then, until gross mismanagement grounded it with heavy losses. In spite of its inauspicious beginnings, Samoa Airways if properly managed and run, (by professionals preferably), has every chance of being the catalyst for Samoa to have the airline services it so badly needs. But it is helpful as government embarks on this to be reminded that we have been down this very road before. The lessons of history are there and must be learnt and heeded, if their repetition is to be avoided. Incidentally, as for a possible flooding of the To-Sua with tourists from China if direct charter flights were to start between China and Samoa, I have a suggestion. Make the climb down to the water even more challenging than it is now. That should encourage only the young and the brave to take the plunge. Afamasaga F ToleafoaLetava

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