2019 People of the Year: Ulu Bismarck Crawley
It was a race against time for the country to get a population of 197,000 vaccinated within a two days shutdown to contain the measles outbreak that has already killed more than 80 people.
About 16 people had already died from measles at the time when the country declared the State of Emergency which was later extended until 29 December.
The urgency to get children vaccinated first following the outbreak led to the ‘door to door’ vaccination drive that requires a lot of manpower and planning overnight for it to be successful.
Those logistics and coordination was handled by the focal point of contact, the National Emergency Operation Centre (N.E.O.C.).
N.E.O.C. Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.), Ulu Bismarck Crawley has been the face of the outlet activated under the State of Emergency protocols.
Ulu who has been juggling his hours between the N.E.O.C. office and his role as the Ministry of Environment boss refuses to take any credit for the mass vaccination campaign and their response to the measles epidemic.
He understands the C.E.O. position comes with additional responsibilities and role as the Chairman for the Disaster Management Office.
The latest vaccination figure shows a total of 95 per cent of the population has already received the MMR injection.
More than 40,000 people were vaccinated during the 20 hour unprecedented door to door vaccination initiative which saw Samoa go on lock down for two days.
“I acknowledge the Director General of Health and staff for their work and as I said we rely on them for situation analysis report,” said Ulu.
“It was a successful campaign because of the good guidance from them which helped us make good coordination...”
About the measles response, the Chairman acknowledged stakeholders from government officials, businesses, international communities and institutions that assisted in the efforts to contain the disease.
N.E.O.C. and the Disaster Advisory Committee were reminded of the saying to “keep the faith and continue to good fight” as its guidance in its mission to address the measles epidemic.
Unlike responses to natural disasters, Ulu pointed out the measles epidemic had different needs and requires a different response and efforts in terms of timing.
It was a learning experience for him and others involved.
“This is probably one where we were informed by the appropriate Ministry and coordination is in place and was a matter of identifying what are the targets and start providing logistics,” he said.
“Our work was very much aligned with the situation and we all know the State of Emergency signaled the importance given by government to it.
“It shaped our whole commitment that time allows for it. It took a lot of energy but I think [we] were much informed with situation itself and for immediate attention and time to mobilise resources and make sure get vaccination done as soon as possible.”
During the process of planning and coordinating, Ulu said a lot of thoughts were given to the use of a red ribbon and discussions on the shutdown.
The committee had deliberated whether those who have been vaccinated should show the red ribbon or if it is those that have not been vaccinated.
But after a fruitful discuss it was decided that the responsibility rests on those that have not done their part to get vaccinated to show the red ribbon or cloth in front of their door to signal the need to get injected.
On Thursday 5 December the first day of the shutdown when he drove to N.E.O.C office at around 5 a.m., Ulu said he was overwhelmed to see families had already put up red cloths.
“I felt humbled to see the community and the whole country’s response,” he said.
“I know we couldn’t cover everyone but [I am] confident it covered a big part and we continue to cover the rest. We were quite happy with the outcome [of the mass vaccination campaign].”
While his role as the C.E.O. also carries a lot of responsibilities and commitment, Ulu said the roles are “manageable”.
“There have been challenging parts but at the same time there was a priority from government on this particular activity and it didn’t stop the work of the Ministry we still continued on,” he said.
“It was manageable in the sense that there was coordinated support from all Ministries, sectors, private sector, church leaders and everyone.
“It makes it much easier to have that support…”
While works to fight the measles slows down, the Chairman called on the nation to trust in the Lord as he is a loving God, in Samoan, “Ia lototetele ile Atua Samoa aua e agalelei o ia.”
Earlier this year, Ulu was awarded the Media Friendly Award for head of Government in providing information to the media for reporting.
He holds a Masters in Environmental law with postgraduate studies in the areas of Climate Change, Meteorology, Oceanography, Geographical Information System (G.I.S.) and Remote Sensing.
Previously he had worked at the Apia Observatory (currently Meteorology), S.P.R.E.P. and has carried out consultancy roles with the U.N.D.P., F.A.O., World Bank, AusAid and some with Multilateral Environmental Agreements (M.E.A.).
Ulu was the former Technical Advisor of the Adaptation Fund Project and P.P.C.R. at P.U.M.A.