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Families' food requests keeps phones busy

Families asking for food is one of the main requests that the Samoa Victim Support Group (S.V.S.G.) is fielding through its helpline phone-in service.

The not-for-profit organisation’s Director Siliniu Lina Chang told Samoa Observer the requests for assistance with food is coming in from families in villages such as Vailele and as remote as Faleapuna.

She said families are struggling as fathers are out of a job during the state of emergency (S.O.E.), resulting in a loss of income and the ability to put food on the table.

“Our helpline has gotten a lot more calls since the state of emergency started. The calls are coming in constantly and the most pressing matter is food. Families are struggling because the men are out of work during the state of emergency,” she said.

“On Saturday (last Saturday), we started on the eastern side of our island in Vailele, and that decision was based on where the requests came from.”

The S.V.S.G. is not only supplying food, but is also checking on the families’ living conditions and whether there is anything else they can do.

“It’s not just a matter of giving them food. We want them to know we care about them so we are also checking to see if there are any other improvements we can help with,” added Siliniu.

“We spend time with them to tell them why we are out there and rice is the most important food item requested by families. It’s a necessity. They use it to make koko rice and sua raisa.”

The coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic caught a lot of village families off guard, according to the S.V.S.G. head, with the Government’s subsequent declaration of the S.O.E. also triggering panic. 

“It just happened. We didn’t plan for this coronavirus and when the state of emergency started, they blocked off buses and people started to panic because they had no mode of transportation to get to work and some of them live very far away from their workplaces.”

The lack of income is also having an effect on family harmony with no food and bored children locked up at home leading to a buildup in stress for the parents.

“The lockdown is making everyone edgy. We could have a married couple who get along great and never fight but put them in lockdown and it becomes a stressful place,” she said. “They are staying indoors for too long with each other.”

To address some of these challenges, Siliniu said flour to make panikeke and other food items will be added to their donations. There are also increasing requests for cash power assistance.

“There are so many families that we need to help and our work has been delayed. When we visit a family, we go there to ascertain to see what their needs are because we want to know how else we can help them. When we visit, we make no judgments, we just listen,” she added.

The S.V.S.G. Helpline phone-in service is 800-7874. 

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