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No extra funds despite demand: S.V.S.G.

The Samoa Victims Support Group has experienced significantly more cases since the beginning of the state of emergency but received no additional funds from the Government to help them cope, the Samoa Observer has learned.

Despite handling more cases than ever with the Helpline ringing off the hook, the non-profit group did not receive operational or salary funding from the supplementary budget revealed last week in Parliament.

The group does not typically receive Government funding and relies instead on charity from individuals and businesses. But since schools closed and a wave of unemployment and reduced employment swept Samoa, demand for their stretched services has increased significantly.

To help their operations, the European Union funded project Spotlight has released part of its T$10.6 million budget early, giving S.V.S.G. US$5000 (T$ 13,940) to operate its Helpline (800 7874). 

Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Finance Leasiosiofa’asisina Oscar Malielegaoi confirmed the organisation was not included in the supplementary budget.

“S.V.S.G. will not receive any direct funding through the supplementary budget announced last week,” Leasiosio said in an email.

“However, they will benefit indirectly through reduced electricity and water cost.

“As for the Multi sectoral response, we will work closely with the respective Agencies (Education, Police, Women and Community etc) on how we can best address their priority needs.”

With just four staff managing several new cases of domestic violence a day, President Siliniu Lina Chang was unable to speak in detail with the Samoa Observer about the increase in cases.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (U.N.I.C.E.F.) has also provided some funding towards the Campus of Hope for children sexually or physically abused. 

But as well as their core work with victims, S.V.S.G. spends hours delivering food to bereft families whose income stream stopped abruptly as a result of either the tourism sector’s downfall or public transport being stopped for the state of emergency.

In early April, the group was already sounding the alarm, concerned domestic violence would increase as jobs dwindled and families spend more time in close quarters together.

“If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that our individual wellbeing is deeply intertwined with the wellbeing of everyone else. If we don’t take care of those who are most vulnerable in our society and those who care for others, no one wins but the virus,” Siliniu wrote on the group’s Facebook page.

The Spotlight Initiative is funded by the European Union and managed by the United Nations agencies in Samoa. It is one of the largest international investments in the fight against domestic violence, with €500 million pledged globally and €50 million alone set aside for the Pacific. 

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