Apolima residents thankful for island's protection
About 44 kilometers west of Apia, somewhat sandwiched between the big islands of Upolu and Savai’i, is Apolima Island.
There are about 10 families on the island, who have over the years learnt to live within their means, maintained their traditional way of living and protected themselves from outside influence including infectious diseases.
Village mayor, Tautaiolevao Tautala Asovale, told the Samoa Observer on Thursday that due to their island’s isolation they have often escaped the clutches of diseases that have affected communities in Upolu and Savai’i.
And with the current measles outbreak in Samoa – with the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) recording 249 and 57 suspected cases in Upolu and Savai’i – Tautaiolevao said they were forced to impose a travel restriction on the island’s residents.
"For example, the measles that's worrying Samoa right now, we've stopped people from going to other islands especially Upolu. They can only go when it's necessary," he said.
Apolima does not have a hospital and the travel restrictions imposed on the island’s residents tries to make up for that.
But serious cases needing medical attention are taken to the Upolu, according to the village mayor.
Apolima has an underground spring water, which the families rely on for drinking and cooking.
The island’s inhabitants credit two water eels, with one of them called ‘Tuna’, for the spring water’s purity. The government also supplied residents with water tanks, though the family living within the vicinity of the spring water say it caters for all their needs.
Resident, Salesulu Afe Solo, believes the spring water is a blessing for everyone who uses it.
"I believe this natural gift of water from God is a blessing that has kept me alive all these years starting from when I was born and I will forever appreciate and use this water," he said.
Tamatoa Tautala, who is the Village Mayor’s son, has a pig farm on two acres of land that is currently home to over 100 pigs. The pigs are shared with families on the island for food and fa'alavelave (events).
With increasing concerns about climate change and its impact on communities in Samoa, Tautaiolevao said they are confident that the ruggedness of the island’s terrain will act as a buffer against the impact of sea level rise.
"It's always been deep almost all around the island because it's covered with mountains of rock and only the small beach on our front yard that we can be able to see the ocean," he said.
Even mitigating the effects of a potential tsunami is a top priority for the islanders with Salesulu saying the peak of the island is a popular hiking area for the residents.
"Our island is very simple and we still love living the same way we lived before we were modernised like how Upolu is right now," he said.
The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa is the only church on the island with the village mayor revealing that it has become a place of worship for everyone.