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Pain, confusion and a nation in mourning

Another day and more measles suspected deaths. This sadly has become quite the norm on these shores during the past few days.

Look at the newspaper you are reading today for example. What a tragedy this has turned out to be. It’s absolutely devastating.

Truth be told, this is a nation in mourning. This is a nation living in fear as confusion reigns among the population. You cannot blame them.

These are tough times for everyone.

As of Tuesday evening, official figures released by the National Emergency Operation Centre show that there were at least 1,174 suspected cases of measles. Of that number, the death toll stood at 17.

That will not be the final number. We know that much.

Indeed, this is immediately turning out to be one of the worst health disasters in recent memory. Not since the devastation of Cyclone Evan when we lost so many lives to unexpected flooding that Samoa has experienced this level of pain in terms of losses.

And with multiple deaths reported everyday, we can be guilty of brushing over these individual lives, merely viewing them as statistics. We shouldn’t.

The seventeen lives lost are not just measles statistics; they are precious lives, all of them loved and cherished. They matter. We must never lose that perspective.

On yesterday’s Samoa Observer, two more measles death cases were highlighted, personalising the anguish and pain of our people in what has obviously become a very difficult time for everyone.

The first case was that of a three-year-old boy from Toamua-uta, Meki Jr. Tavita, who died last Saturday. Talking about his son’s death, Meki Tavita Snr. revealed another extremely alarming development.  He said the family lives in fear as seven other members of the same family have fallen ill with measles.

“His untimely death is worrying us and I fear for my other children if they are even safe at home or anywhere,” said Mr. Tavita. According to the father, the deceased boy could not be admitted at the hospital when they took him there on Tuesday last week.

“We were told he could not be kept at the hospital and so we went to find help from traditional healers,” he said. “We took him back to the hospital on Saturday when he was really weak and wasn’t responding. He died there.”

At Tuaefu, another family had lost a 3-year-old son, Tovio Tusolo, who was buried on Monday. The family said he was taken to the hospital after he developed a fever, and subsequently died on the same day he was admitted.

 “I went to work everyday with the knowledge that my family would never come across this kind of tragedy,” said a devastated father, Tusolo Faitoga.

On the front page of the paper you are reading is a photo of another father who is gutted by the loss of his son whom he described “superman.”

"I never expected this to happen, especially to this one because he was our family's superman as he's always filled with so much strength and joy," Alex Lee Cheung said of his young son, Seluka, who has become one of the youngest casualties so far.

At Saleimoa, one more family is burying their loved one. Ladies and gentlemen, there are stories like this popping up all over Samoa today. And there will be many more before this measles crisis is over.

One day when things calm down and everything is said and done, the Government needs to launch a full independent inquiry to determine how this was allowed to happen.

Surely someone could have seen this coming.

We talk about a Government, let alone a Ministry of Health full of laui’a, how did Samoa find herself down this path? Where were all the so-called laui’a? Was there nothing that could have prevented it from reaching the devastating stage we have arrived at today?

Amidst so much sadness and devastation, however, we find comfort and peace in the response from so many helping hands, who have stepped up to donate and give whatever is possible. We say thank you.

We also want to acknowledge with gratitude once more the work of health workers working day and night to deal with the situation we have got at hand. We are mindful that while we have lost many lives, many more are being saved thanks to the efforts of dedicated health workers and helpers from all over the world. We are grateful.

Speaking of helpers, there is one area we feel New Zealand should help us – if they haven’t been asked already. Statistics have revealed that at the height of measles outbreak in New Zealand, more than 2,000 people were diagnosed with measles. Not one of them died. How did they do it?

Let’s not wait until more people die to find the answer.

Stay safe Samoa and may God help this country!

 What you need to know about measles response:

A new coordination office has been established to handle all issues related to measles.  Phone: 66506 and 66507, email [email protected]

Where you can get vaccinated

Upolu:

1.       Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital Emergency Department, Monday to Friday from 8am – 8pm and Saturdays 8am – 1pm

2.       Rural District Hospitals:  Leulumoega, Poutasi, Lalomanu,  Monday to Friday from 8am – 8pm

3.       Community Health Centres: Faleolo, Lufilufi, Saanapu, Monday to Friday from 8am – 8pm

4.       Wellness and Youth Friendly Service (Old Diabetic Clinic), Eleele Fou, Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm and Saturday 8am – 1pm

5.       Samoa Family Health Association, Moto’otua, Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm and Saturday 8am – 1pm

6.       Mobile Service Unit, Samoa Red Cross Headquarters, Tuanaimato, Monday to Friday 8am - 5pm

7.       Samoa Tourism Authority Fale, Eleele Fou, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

8.       Myna’s Old Supermarket, Vaoala, Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm

9.       Laoa Manuleleua Lauese, Vaimoso, Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm

10.    Fale Komiti, Lepea, Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm

11.    Catholic Church, Moamoa, Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm

Savaii:

1.       Malietoa Tanumafili II Hospital Emergency Department, Monday to Friday from 8am – 8pm and Saturdays 8am – 1pm.

2.       Rural District Hospitals: Sataua, Safotu, Foailalo, Monday to Friday from 8am – 8pm

3.       Community Health Centre in Satupaitea, Monday to Friday from 8am – 8pm

If you or your child has symptoms of measles, go to the Acute Primary Care Clinic or Outpatient Department of T.T.M

It takes up to two weeks for the vaccination to become fully effective so it is important that the usual prevention measures are taken for up to two weeks after you have been vaccinated.

Symptoms: high fever, cough, runny nose, red and watery eyes and eye sensitivity to light.  

After 3-5 days a raised red rash will start to appear on the head, face and body. Not all symptoms may be present.

If you or your children become sick:

1.       Isolate yourself and take care to avoid contact with other vulnerable people like children.

2.       Take Panadol or paracetamol syrup (for children) if having fever and apply cool sponging.

3.       Drink plenty of fluids and maintain good hydration.

4.       Do not share beddings, clothes, drinks and so on.

5.       Wash your hands with soap and clean water after sneezing and coughing and when caring for the sick.

6.       If your condition worsens, visit either T.T.M or M.T.II Hospital immediately.

To avoid contracting measles:

1.       Avoid large gatherings or group activities (especially children)

2.       Cover your nose when coughing or sneezing or wear a mask.

3.       Isolate sick people in your family and do not share space with them.

4.       Get your vaccination at either T.T.M or M.T.II Hospital between 8am-8pm daily.

 *Reporter Sapeer Mayron contributed by compiling the  “What you need to know” factsheet 

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