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Measles epidemic ruins Christmas plans

The deadly measles epidemic in Samoa has thrown Christmas plans into disarray with people cancelling family reunions or even working through the festive period at the national hospital to save more lives.

David Tamala, 21, was looking forward to this Christmas with a family reunion on the cards. 

But that has all changed with the declaration of a measles epidemic with his family cancelling the family get together.

“It is sad that the family reunion is not going to happen this year because of the measles outbreak in Samoa,” he said, in an interview with the Samoa Observer.

“It is going to be a sad Christmas because of the measles epidemic in Samoa and now there has been many young children who lost their lives.”

Lepua Godinet, 47, of Saleimoa has also had a family reunion cancelled, which was scheduled for this year’s festive season.

“Every christmas we used to have a family reunion, where there will be other family members coming from overseas, and now this year we have to cancel it because of measles,” she said.

“Lots of events at the end – which was usually done every year – have been canceled this year because of the measles, and now I am not able to hang out any event like I used to.”

The game of bingo, which is quite popular and often used by some churches as a form of fundraising, has also been cancelled by the Samoa Government in a bid to reduce the risks of measles infection.

Falealili resident, 29-year-old Vala Peita, said this Christmas will be different as she normally played a game of bingo on Christmas eve. But that will not happen due to a ban imposed by the government.

“Well my families overseas were planning to come to Samoa for a holiday this year on Christmas but now it was canceled because of the measles in Samoa,” she said.

For 22-year-old Tipesa Selesele, the festive season was a good chance to take a break, after completing her studies in nursing at the National University of Samoa. 

She was looking forward to her graduation and then her entry into formal employment – until the measles epidemic ruined her plans and compelled her to become a volunteer at the hospital.

“I was looking forward for this year's graduation and we finally finished our studies and get a job, and now there is nothing and we have to go straight to work,” she said.

“Christmas is a time to celebrate with family, but now this year I am not going to celebrate with my parents because I am at work all the time.”

Even going to Savai’i is now out of the question for Ms Selesele, as she and her nursing colleagues go into overdrive in their bid to save more lives. 

But for 30-year-old Angelo Anatasi, it is business as usual as his plans for Christmas have not changed with his family keen to push on with their tuanai plans for the festive season. 

“Well for me there is no difference with Christmas this year and all other years, even with the measles but I only want is to be happy,” he said.

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