Hawaiian, American teams on the ground
A team of more than 70 doctors and nurses from Hawaii are on the ground in the latest and biggest round of overseas reinforcements to help contain the measles outbreak.
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, who is also a Physician, led the group which arrived on Thursday morning with more than 2700 kilograms of medical equipment in tow.
He was welcomed by the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, who extended his appreciation, both to the broader United States and the state of Hawaii for their assistance in a time of national crisis.
Last week, the United States provided USD$200,000 in immediate disaster relief funding from the Government's development agency, U.S.A.I.D. for immediate assistance.
On their first day out in the field, the Lieutenant Governor said Samoa’s Government response to aggressively immunise people is to be applauded.
“We all understand some people make the decision not to be immunised but it’s heartbreaking that sometimes young people die,” he said.
“So we did see one fatality today of a young person that was already quite sick and many thousands more will be safe because of the bold action that you’ve taken [to immunise everyone].”
Mr. Green was also immunising people on their day of arrival to Apia.
From observation during the teams response on Thursday, Lieutenant Governor said like all places people wait to go see the doctors.
“We saw one 13 year old today and was quite sick and when immunising her small village and had the ambulance there and taking her out and to the hospital,” he said.
“She probably would’ve been better off if she had gone to hospital several days ago before her measles became so severe.
“For everyone listening if they are feeling sick and have shown signs of measles go see the doctors right away. If they get ahead of it its usually not life threatening.”
The team has been in the country for the duration of the two-day shutdown.
Mr. Green said the State of Hawaii would be honoured to come back and assist in healthcare if the call for help is issued.
The Lieutenant Governor is also appealing to other countries to lend a helping hand to Samoa and its call for help.
“I think everyone should be contributing, one is because we care about Samoan people and two is because when infections spread and outbreak like this it’s no telling where it would go next," he said.
“We welcome the support from Samoan and others around the world if we had a problem.”
The State of Hawaii team that consists of 55 nurses and about 20 doctors brought with them respiratory supplies to stock the hospital for the coming months, thermometers and othe supportive medical supplies.
Lieutenant Governor estimated a cost of more than US$2 million value of time and resources provided by the team and fully funded philanthropy.
The Hawaiian Airline flew in the team on Thursday and the Fiji Airways will be flying them out again after the two day shutdown.
“It might be a significantly higher but it’s an honour to be part of this,” he said.
“The 75 doctors and nurses tend to be expensive people, of course they wanted to donate their time because they wanted to help people.”
He added they hope to bring in ventilators and other supplies to assist with the call of help.
The politician marked his one year anniversary as a Lieutenant Governor on Thursday, the day of the team's arrival in Samoa. But he has continued to combined public service with medical assistance and continues to offer car in Hawaiian hospitals.
The group is assisting the administering vaccinations and providing healthcare to those infected by the disease.
Their logistical arrangements on the ground in Samoa are being facilitated by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.).
The U.S.A.I.D.’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is partnering with the W.H.O., which is helping to coordinate the international teams working in support of Samoa’s measles response.
The W.H.O. is working with health ministries throughout the Pacific region to strengthen "rapid response teams", which can be deployed to help countries quickly and effectively respond to disease outbreaks and health emergencies during disasters.
Two experts from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control (C.D.C.) have also arrived in Samoa.
The team is providing technical assistance to improve epidemiology services; to support campaign implementation and monitoring; coordinate and conduct rapid coverage assessments; and advise on future vaccination strategy.
The American Ambassador to Samoa, Scott Brown, emphasised that the vaccine is safe and effective.
“The advice to Samoan families from the specialists from the C.D.C. echoes the official advice from the Samoan Government: The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your community is to make sure you and all your loved ones get vaccinated,” the Ambassador said.
“You can save lives today. If you have unvaccinated folks in your household, please tie a piece of red cloth outside so that the doctors and nurses can easily identify the homes needing most assistance.”
A U.S. Navy medical officer, usually based in Auckland, will remain in Samoa to help the American Embassy to assess the most effective way for future American assistance.
Ambassador Brown expects the situation in Samoa to continue to evolve and says the U.S. is reviewing it hourly.
“It is important to us that the assistance the United States is providing is what’s needed,” he said.
“Coordination is pivotal. We are taking our lead from the Samoan Government to supplement and expand with a targeted and effective response.
“Partner nations, intergovernmental agencies, and NGOs are meeting regularly and working together to ensure we don’t duplicate efforts or resources.”