Samoa Observer's Person of 2019: The Health Worker
The Samoa Observer’s Person of the Year for 2019 is “The Health Worker.”
The decision was made by the Editorial Board of the Samoa Observer in light of the measles crisis, which has claimed more than 80 precious lives. More than 5,600 cases of measles have been recorded since the outbreak began.
In choosing The Health Worker, the Samoa Observer is breaking away from tradition where every other year, the newspaper, based on recommendations from its readers and partners, chooses an individual as the Person of the Year.
This year, any of the individuals we have chosen, as People of the Year could have easily been that Person. These individuals are outstanding. Their contribution towards empowering the lives of Samoans and making a difference where it matters is enormous.
The truth is, we accept that there are many other outstanding individuals who are not on this list. It is impossible to include everybody.
In the edition of the newspaper you are reading, we are highlighting the stories of just some of the people; they are individuals who have inspired this country in different ways. They are heroes in many different regards.
There is a human tendency to view great deeds as the product of one great person. But in 2019 we have seen something great; something we cannot distinguish. Which is where the decision was made to choose The Health Worker as our Person of 2019.
This year has been very difficult for our small nation. The measles crisis has been a tragedy that has affected all of us in many different ways. We have experienced extreme sadness and sorrow. Since the first measles death, the pain has only deepened.
But amidst much hopelessness and tears, we have also seen the best of mankind in this country’s response. And at the forefront of that response are health workers. They are doctors, nurses, specialists, health officials, emergency responders, and more than 300 international medical volunteers who came from all over the world to help. They have been at the coalface of this crisis since day one and they are continuing to work even as you are reading this.
Many of them have worked days without rest. Many of them are not paid. Many of them have sacrificed time with families and loved ones. Many of them have travelled so far, placed their own lives at risk to answer this country’s call in our hour of need.
While politicians dominate the headlines and take all the attention, the health workers are the unsung heroes who continue to work quietly without much fanfare. We cannot name them all. And we cannot pinpoint to an individual for this honour.
What we do know is that as a collective, this group of individuals, The Health Worker, deserve recognition and to be appreciated.
Indeed, as we prepare to welcome 2020, we are a grateful nation. We are a grateful people. We have seen the face of God in the way these health workers have responded to their calling.
It’s sad we have lost 81 lives. There is no doubt about that.
But for every one of those lives taken, many more were spared. Many children were healed, many patients returned home to be with their families.
We are not out of the woods yet in terms of the measles epidemic but we are in a much better place today than we were a month ago. We can see a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel. That has been made possible due to the selfless and dedication of local health workers across this country, with the assistance of all the international volunteers.
During the past few months, the pages of this newspaper have been filled with many wonderful tributes about the work of “The Health Worker.” Dr. Brian Spain, AUSMAT Echo Mission Lead, hit the nail on the head in one of those tributes.
“They have just worked incredibly hard for week after week after week to bring this under control. It has been our privilege and pleasure to work alongside them,” he said.
“Our staff have been exhausted after two week [rotations], and we know many of the local staff have worked for eight weeks without a whole day break.”
The praise for local staff is echoed by Ann Diamond, an NZMAT Nurse, who said of her local health workers: “Here they never complain and we can see just how hard they work and they have to work very, very long days and have their days off cancelled in a time of crisis.
“They just accept it. They have their pride in their country, they want to help their people. Everybody in this facility just gets on with it and we don’t even notice how they feel, they don’t tell us how they are feeling.”
Lastly, looking in from the outside, Australian High Commissioner, Sara Moriarty, summed it perfectly.
“They have done an amazing job and continue to do an amazing job and been working really diligently for a long time to try and meet this need,” she said.
“It’s really important we acknowledge the amazing work they have done to date and will continue to do.”
Today that is precisely what we want to do. We want to say thank you. We want to say fa’afetai, fa’amalo. We salute them for their courage, bravery, commitment, dedication, perseverance and most importantly love. You are appreciated.