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Tahiti comes to Samoa's aid in measles battle

Two doctors and an epidemiologist from French Polynesia arrived in Samoa on Saturday.

They are in the country to join the fight against the measles epidemic which has already claimed 20 lives, 19 of which were children under four years old.

Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, confirmed Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia has sent three medical professionals to aid Samoa in her hour of need.

He said they also offered to bring vaccines, but due to their materials being printed in French, the World Health Organisation recommended the country help in other ways, to avoid any issues.

Leausa said the support reflects the strong partnerships between Pacific Island countries, who work together frequently and meet often as heads of health ministers and health ministers. 

Tahiti’s team join 34 Australians and 30 New Zealanders on the ground, who have been dispersed among the nation’s hospitals, vaccination clinics and mobile vaccine units.

On Friday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi thanked the teams for their quick response to the crisis, calling their support a symbol of love.

Australia’s Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) last week build a negative pressure eight bed intensive care unit (I.C.U.) to ease the burden on the I.C.U at Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital.

As well as two deployments of nurses and support staff, New Zealand has contributed 3000 vaccines.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has organised 110,500 doses of measles containing vaccines and 30, 000 Vitamin A tablets, used to treat severe cases of measles at the hospital as well as six refrigerators and three emergency response trolleys used as immunization service stations.

There are now 1644 cases of measles in Samoa, 40 per cent of which have required hospitalisation. 

The majority have been from Upolu, largely concentrated in Vaimauga West and Faleata West. 

There are currently 11 children receiving critical care.

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