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Measles epidemic inspires New Zealand appeal for support

A Givealittle fund and general appeal have been launched in New Zealand to raise support for Samoan families devastated by the measles epidemic.

In just four days, 16 people have rallied nearly NZ$900 (T$1,545).

Led by Samoan Aucklander Teleiai Edwin Puni, the fund hopes to help where government and medical aid may not, like the emotional and practical needs of parents and children.

Teleiai said having responded to the 2009 Tsunami that killed nearly 200 people, he knows what his people need in this time of crisis.

“While there is government assistance from overseas to Samoa, there is more than the medical treatment needed, there is also the trauma and social impact on these families,” he said.

“I was leading a number of humanitarian works during the tsunami in 2009, so I know very well what is going on in Samoa.”

His experience back in 2009 has marked him for life, Teleiai said.

“It really affected me. The need on the ground... the families themselves need all the support."

Mobilising other Samoans and Pacific Islanders across the diaspora is about reminding everyone that while they might feel far from home, they are able to help.

“The appeal is to respond to many people saying how can we help. Here is one way of helping, through a charitable, humanitarian effort by Samoans overseas. 

“Being here and not in Samoa, there is a feeling of helplessness, but not hopelessness. 

“We can do something, and that is what this appeal is all about.” 

As the death toll climbs to 32 and cases of the disease reach nearly 2500, the impact of measles has been huge and far reaching.

Teleiai wants to reach affected families directly and hand them money or material goods that might help.

“This is Samoa, it’s not a big place,” he said, asked if anyone was helping them track down the families.

He said he hopes the fund will raise a lot of funds, skills and resources from those who wish to donate. While media coverage of the appeal has been high, whether that will translate into more income is “a different story.”

The fund is being organised by a senior health professional, who Teleiai declined to name, and the ASA Foundation which was established after the 2009 Tsunami hit.

“Names are not important, the cause is important,” he said. 

The team behind the appeal have coordinated with the National Emergency Operations Centre to work with them on dispersing the funds.

They also already reached out to Paulo and Faaoso Tuivale of Lauli’I who laid three of their five children to rest: two year old Itila, and one year old twins Tamara and Sale Tuivale.

“We are in contact on a regular basis, not just on the money but to know there are people here thinking of them,” Teleiai said.

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