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Poverty, domestic unrest spikes under lockdown

As the coronavirus lockdown hits families in Samoa, the Samoa Victim Support Group (S.V.S.G) has recorded a major spike in families requesting help after falling into poverty and domestic unrest. 

Some 415 families have made requests through channels such as social media, e-mail and the organisation’s help line. They have been seeking help for a wide variety of needs, including eight “walk-in “ clients who include abused women and girls; abandoned children and mothers struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Of those a total of 175 families have requested the charity’s help to obtain basic necessities such as access to clean water, assistance with the payment of water bills and cash power.

“From week one [of the lockdown] until this [the sixth] week, the tension [on families] has been building up, forcing our people to resort to extreme measures just to survive,” the S.V.S.G. said in a statement.

That has spilled over to a total of 46 gender-based violence cases being referred to the Police by the organisation. 

Police last month reported that comes of domestic violence had surged more broadly this year and by up to 40 per cent despite the coronavirus restrictions. 

Cases of internal tension within families have been rising dramatically, according to the S.V.S.G.

Cases brought to their attention include families alleged to have violated others’ properties to steal from plantations; mothers who have kicked daughters out of home for failing to bring in sufficient revenue; fathers who have complained of sons drinking and causing trouble and drinking instead of supporting families; and the escalation of existing domestic tension between husbands  now forced to stay at home in close proximity due to being unemployed.

In one extreme case, 20 people were squeezed into a basic hut that was barely withstanding poor weather, the group said.

In other cases, mothers and children waited for the emergency drop off of food supplies because access to certain roads was cut off by poor conditions. 

According to S.V.S.G, their focus is changing the mentality of people now accustomed to subsistence living as a means of addressing chronic inequality and poverty amongst the underprivileged.

“Because if we can do it for the empowered nofotane (a woman who had married into a family) women who are now the breadwinners in her family through the works of her hand, then we can definitely do it for the rest of our vulnerable families.”

In the meantime, basic necessities are being provided to those in need while awaiting their husbands being called back to work, or remittance from their relatives working under the Seasonal Workers Scheme etc.

Financial assistance received this week has totaled $3000 from Levaoatuamaaana Aati-Schuster and the Alofa Charitable Trust of New Zealand, said S.V.S.G. President Siliniu Lina Chang.

Assistance has helped needy people replenish supplies of rice, noodles, flour, sugar and other necessities for families in need.

Louisa Apelu from the United Nations Development Programme’s Spotlight Initiative have also supported the group and its help line.

The United Nations’ children fund, U.N.I.C.E.F. Pacific, have financed food supplies for children at the charity’s campus for abused and abandoned children. The ANZ Bank has also supported S.V.S.G.’s work combating domestic violence,  

“Together, we have bridged the inequality gap while saving lives during this health crisis,” the President said, 

A state of emergency to prevent the spread of the pandemic was first declared on March 20; last Friday some measures were relaxed but the emergency as a whole was extended by four weeks.

 



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