As Parliament convenes, think about the victims, many of them some of Samoa’s poorest families
The good news is that according to the Government, financial assistance raised since the measles epidemic started has amounted to more than $22.4 million. That’s a lot of money.
What’s even more important is that a report about the money will be tabled today when Parliament reconvenes at the Maota Fono, Mulinu’u, for what is likely to be its last session for the year.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi highlighted the fact on the front page of the Samoa Observer yesterday in a story titled “Measles overseas aid to de declared in Parliament.”
Said Prime Minister Tuilaepa: “This will be included in the supplementary budget and will be tabled before Parliament on Tuesday for the lawmakers to go through it.
“A total of $9.3 million from overseas partners and $706,000 local donations will be included in this supplementary and where the money will be spent.”
According to the Prime Minister, the issue was discussed during a special Cabinet meeting on Saturday.
Tuilaepa also alluded to allegations questioning the Government’s handling of the funding. While he did not say who made the allegations, Tuilaepa vehemently rejected them.
“That is not true. No one can use these funds, not even a penny,” he said, explaining that the funds are monitored by the Ministry of Finance.
“The funds will go before Parliament for their deliberation and there will be Committee hearings conducted with the relevant ministries that will get funding from these donations.”
Well that’s reassuring.
With lots of funding come lots of responsibilities, which this Government would be well aware of. The truth is that there will always be questions asked about how and where such funding is spent, especially in times like this.
This is nothing new in this country. The dramas in the aftermath of the deadly tsunami in 2009 remain quite fresh in our memory. We will not delve into that today.
Come to think of it, there is quite a simple way to avoid all this speculations. All the Government has to do is insist on transparency, accountability and follow the principles of good governance and all their problems should be solved.
Besides, they cannot go wrong if their focus is right, which is to help the people who really need it. This is why all this money has come in from different donors; it is for the Government to ensure it is spent on the real victims of the measles tragedy, not on other things.
Speaking of real victims of measles, a story titled “Grieving families final toll” published on the front page of the Weekend Observer, immediately comes to mind.
According to the story, some families whose children died from measles have been struggling to pay the bills at the national hospital morgue so their loved ones could be released for burial. In some cases, some parents have had to delay the burial of their children while they try to find money.
Take a young father from Vaitele, Alex Lee Cheung, for example.
“We had to pay $650 tala for his morgue fees before he could be released…I actually thought it would have been free or a lot less than that.”
While Mr. Lee Cheung was fortunate to have the support of his family to fork out $650, other “less fortunate” families say they have been unable to pay the costs asked of them.
One of those families is Eseta and Meki Tavita from Toamua. They told the Samoa Observer they went door knocking to find monetary assistance to pay for their son’s morgue fees.
“We couldn’t afford the $250 morgue fees,” said Mrs. Tavita. “We had to delay his burial for a day because we needed to find money to pay for those costs and fixing his small grave.”
There are many more families like the Tavitas. Which makes very, very sad reading in light of everything that has been happening in Samoa lately. On top of morgue fees and what have you, we’ve also been told that medicine prescriptions for all measles patients are not free.
Quite frankly, we find this tough to swallow. With so much money, assistance and hundreds of volunteers arriving to help this country today, don’t you think it’s time for the Government to free up these costs to lessen the burden on all these families who are hurting already?
Today, as Parliament convenes for the last time, we respectfully urge Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration to have a heart for the victims of this measles crisis, many of them are some of the poorest people in Samoa. They could all do with some help, which will be an excellent way to spend a portion of that $22.4million tala. What do you think?
Have a safe Tuesday Samoa, God bless!