Vaccinate, donate, stay home and pray
There is nothing positive about the escalating measles crisis. Neither the rising number of deaths nor the spread of the contagious disease, can be of any comfort to a nation in a state of mourning.
Indeed this is a tough time for everyone in this country.
It is tough for the Government, health workers, helpers who have come near and far and it’s especially tough for families, who have lost loved ones as this crisis continues to unfold.
In a couple of cases, individual families have lost at least two family members. In one case, three children in one family lost their lives. This must be one of the hardest situations any family could find itself in.
At the time of writing, the official death toll stood at 33. By all indicators, that number will only increase. Which means we have a long way to go in getting ourselves out of this dark period in Samoa’s history.
When things like this happen, it often calls for a time of reflection, soul searching and asking ourselves some tough questions.
But perhaps that’s something for another time. Now is not that time.
Right now, and this is something all of us in Samoa agree on, the immediate focus should be on doing whatever is humanly possible to save lives. That means regardless of our differences in opinions and our backgrounds, we all need to pull together in a bid to help this nation.
One life lost is one too many. Thirty-three people – with the possibility of more dying – is a disaster of epic proportions for such a small country like Samoa.
We need to do everything in our power to put a stop to this measles crisis.
So what can you do?
Let’s start at home. You need to ensure your safety first and foremost and that of your family, and everyone else who depends on you. You cannot help anyone if you are sick. So make sure you and everyone in your home are vaccinated.
That has been at the forefront of messages from health officials prior to the measles epidemic declaration.
Today, there is no doubt that the message about vaccination needs to be preached from every pulpit in Samoa, it needs to be the subject of every village council meeting, it needs to be put on a memo for every office.
It is well known that Samoa’s measles coverage rate was shockingly below 40 percent in the build up to this. But that is quickly changing. With a total of 32,743 vaccinations completed before the mass vaccination campaign, since 20 November 2019 more than 24,000 individuals in both Upolu and Savaii have been added to that number.
If anything, this has got to be one of the most encouraging developments to come out of this sad saga. It is terrible that it had to take a tragedy of this magnitude to get this going but it is better late than never.
Besides, of every death there is, hundreds more are people are treated, discharged and they are healed thanks to the hard work from all the health officials. They deserve to be commended for this.
Another tremendous positive we have seen out this adversity is the way with which our people and everyone else have rallied to help. It has been heartwarming to follow the number of private and public donations to the hospital, health workers and to the victims of measles. To see all these different groups, organisations and churches come to the aid of health workers and anybody else who needs it has been wonderful to watch.
Come to think of it, this is one of the best things about Samoa and being Samoans. Sometimes it takes the worst of situations to bring the best out of our people. And as this crisis continues, more and more doors are being opened in Samoa and outside Samoa, where people want to express their love and generosity.
To everyone who is part of these efforts, organisations and groups, we say thank you. And we also encourage you, wherever you are, to keep on giving. More hands make the work lighter.
Speaking of making the work lighter, we are delighted to see that some churches have started to respond to the call to keep children at home. Thank you for leading the way. Sometimes our people actually need to be told no.
It is absolutely astonishing that nearly two weeks after the Government declared orders under the state of emergency, many parents think it’s okay for them to do whatever they want with their children. They think they can take them anywhere they please.
Perhaps people need to be reminded that a state of emergency means everyone don’t have a choice but to do what they are told. So please parents, keep your children at home. More importantly, if you know they have measles, please keep them away from members of the public. It is irresponsible for anyone with measles to continue to move about in public places, without worrying about the impact on other people. That is being selfish.
There is a reason why this nation is under orders of a state of emergency. Everyone needs to cooperate.
Lastly, please keep uplifting our nation in prayers. We need all of Samoa’s prayer warriors, wherever they are in the world, to rise to the occasion. It is undeniable there is so much fear, so much sadness. It almost feels like the spirit of death has gripped this nation during the past two weeks.
But let’s not lose hope. An earnest prayer will give us peace and comfort in times like this. For God Almighty has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind that should tell us what we all need to do.
Stay strong Samoa, may God help us all!