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Poverty, hardship and the plight of Tuvae Alo’s family

Now and then, something always pops up as if it’s heaven sent to remind us about the chilling reality for some people in Samoa today. 

We’re talking about existence of sheer hardship and undeniable poverty among some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of this community.

It’s impossible to ignore. A story titled “Family of 10 appeal for help to build new home” with the accompanying photographs published in the Village Voice Section of the Sunday Samoan was yet another reminder.

While the Government was busy rolling out the red carpet to accommodate some fly-by-night high profile visitors who probably don’t care about Samoa at all, there are people in this country who could do with a helping hand to cushion the unforgiving blows being dished out by today’s living challenges.

Looking at photos of what this particular family calls a home was heartbreaking. But they are not the only ones in Samoa living in such conditions. 

You see week in and week out, pictures published on the pages of this newspaper, mostly in the Village Voice section, remind us that poverty is very very real in paradise. Although we don’t have people dying from starvation, the fact is life for so many poor families in Samoa is extremely difficult they can barely afford housing.

And those pictures don’t lie; they are a reflection of the daily struggles and hardships for many families. While we’ve seen progress in some areas – including countless high rises in Apia and in other places – it’s impossible to deny suffering and the shame of being poor. Tuavae Alo’s family is among them.

“My family’s main concern at the moment is the current situation of our house. Our current house is the result of the only resources that we could get our hands on because of the financial difficulties which we are in."

But that’s not all.

“Our other concerns involve water and electricity, we depend on our uncle next door for water and electricity but we need our own and I don’t want to be a burden on anyone.

 “We also need a proper facility for showering and a toilet because the one we have outside is not safe but I have daughters and granddaughters, I feel ashamed at times because there is nothing much I can do…”

“For all parents, they want the best for their children but it saddens me that I cannot provide that luxury for them because we were not all born with a silver spoon or in other words born wealthy.”

Well that’s beside the point, isn’t it? This is not about being born healthy, this is about Samoan people being given an opportunity to look after themselves and getting the help they need, especially from the Government that should feel duty bound to extend a helping. It’s shameful what these people are lacking. 

Look at the list again, housing, electricity, water and a toilet, these are basic necessities families in 2019 shouldn’t even have to ask for. 

Truth be told, looking at Samoa today, nobody wants to talk about this stuff. Neither the Government nor the people caught up in this vicious cycle want the issue to be brought to the fore. 

For the Government, it’s embarrassing especially when certain Cabinet Ministers have been boasting about how much revenue the Government has been collecting. 

If they have so much money, why can’t they help this poor family – and many other families throughout the country who are in a similar predicament?

The fact is that in Samoa, the existence of hardship and poverty is well documented. The first State of Human Rights Report for Samoa identified undeniable unbridled poverty. 

Take another look: “Despite progress in big picture economic growth and within high level development framework, there is disparity in development outcomes particularly in rural and remote areas,” the report reads.

 “Approximately 20 per cent of Samoa’s population lives below the basic needs poverty line (B.N.P.L), with the higher proportion of rural populations falling below the B.N.P.L. Basically, this means that about 1 in every 5 Samoans lives in poverty.”

There you have it folks, one in five Samoans live in poverty. Those are not our words, they are the words of a report sanctioned by the Government and launched by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi himself. 

Since the launch of that report a few years ago, what has been done? 

Looking at the living conditions of Tuavae Alo and his family, we can safely say not a lot – if anything at all. The worry is that judging from what we are seeing today, there is reason to believe that if poverty was that bad a few years ago when the report was compiled, it would be a lot worse now. 

All you have to do is look at those pictures again. They don’t lie.

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

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