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Spotlight Initative funds used for COVID-19 response

The $10 million domestic violence package for Samoa has had funds repurposed to help deal with the emotional fallout of the country’s pandemic response, the United Nations has confirmed.

At least $51,000 of a total $10.6 million budget from the European Union and the U.N. under the Spotlight Initiative has been released to the Samoa Victims Support Group (S.V.S.G.), Faataua le Ola (F.L.O.) and the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D.).

The two non-profit organisations run the country’s only Helplines for victims of domestic violence or people struggling with their mental health. F.L.O.’s Lifeline was established as a suicide prevention service.

In just one week of the lockdown, the two organisations fielded over 100 phone calls asking for help, the U.N. Development Programme (U.N.D.P.) reports. The S.V.S.G. responded to nine intimate partner violence-related matters reported within one week of lockdown. 

Spotlight’s funding has been targeted towards keeping both helplines going 24/7 as they begin to field more and more urgent calls from people experiencing increased violence at home. 

“The main objective of the Spotlight Initiative is to eliminate violence against women and girls, in particular intimate partner violence and domestic violence,” said Jorn Sorensen, Resident Representative of the U.N.D.P.

“We have not deviated from that goal even during these challenging times.”

The two organisations have received initial funding of US$5,000 (T$13,853) each, with a further T$83,122 set aside to scale up the work in the future.

“These two organizations are part of a holistic gender based violence responsive service mechanism, working closing with the Ministry of Police to intervene as quickly as possible and as necessary,” Mr. Sorensen said. “They have also made urgent referrals to the police in high risk cases.”

Since Samoa went into lockdown, schools have closed, public transport stopped and several businesses have shuttered leaving untold numbers of people newly unemployed.

The Samoa Police Service has recorded an increase of at least 40 per cent in domestic violence related crimes since the beginning of the state of emergency. 

U.N.D.P. is delivering the funding assistance to S.V.S.G. and F.L.O. The Spotlight Initiative COVID-19 response funding is also going towards the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, and other frontline ministries managing the nation’s response through the ‘One U.N. Spotlight’ package.

The U.N agencies involved in the implementation of the Spotlight Initiative include the U.N.D.P., U.N Women, The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UN.E.S.C.O.), The U.N Population Fund (U.N.F.P.A.) and The U.N. Children’s Fund (U.N.I.C.E.F.)

The S.V.S.G. Helpline is 800-7874

The F.L.O. Lifeline is 800-5433

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call the Police: 911 or 22222. 

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