Precious lives, measles tragedy and meaning of White Sunday
The last White Sunday doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. And that’s probably because the day dedicated to all the children in Samoa in 2019 was marked under such an enormous cloud of darkness that it would be very hard to forget.
Indeed, this time last year is not a moment we want to remember. The pain, agony and suffering this nation went through as a result of the tragic loss of lives through the measles crisis is etched in our memories like a permanent scar. How can we forget so soon?
As this country gets down to celebrate a brand new White Sunday this year, for many families, today will be a painful reminder about the tragedy of the measles and what could have been.
For mothers and fathers, it will only bring tears of sadness when they think about the memories of their loved ones. Some families lost more than one child; in one family three were taken. It’s impossible to try and imagine the kind pain they have been through, which is unlikely to disappear overnight either.
The fact is 83 precious lives, many of them innocent children who had so much to live for under the age of 14, were taken. The measles epidemic was ruthless and unforgiving. It did not discriminate when it came to its victims. Innocent children of all ages were mercilessly killed while this nation was trying to plug so many gaps through which the disease was allowed to spread quickly, uncontrollably.
The measles crisis will always be a tragic reminder about how this nation, especially the Government, fell short in protecting our most precious and vulnerable children. Some people will argue that we cannot bring back the lives that have been lost, and perhaps it’d be best to try and move on. They have a point but lessons must be learned to ensure what happened this time last year is not repeated.
Something happened to Samoa’s vaccination policy, which led to the woefully low percentage of vaccination that allowed the disease to kill all those children.
We repeat; this needs to be examined, accounted for and rectified. The families who are hurting deserve closure and this will go a long way to achieve that.
As we celebrate White Sunday today, let’s not forget the victims of the measles crisis. Let’s not forget their parents, siblings, families, villages and churches who are hurting. Let’s also not forget the health workers, first responders and all Good Samaritans, many of them would still be deeply affected and traumatized.
That said, let us also be grateful on this day. While 83 people died, thousands more are left and that is something to cherish.
White Sunday is a joyous day for thousands of young children across the country who are being spoiled on their special day. Why not?
Amidst the challenges and problems of today, including the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, it’s nice to be able to forget about it for a day and celebrate something truly worthwhile.
The children of this country are worth it. It is for this reason that days like White Sunday are important when we get to sit down, appreciate them and listen to what they have to say.
Across this nation, children are being reserved a very special place today, at the head of the table. They get to lead Sunday worship services, preach and do everything, including the opportunity to eat first, which is a rarity in Samoa.
But this day is more than just material things and food. It should be an opportunity for adults, parents and leaders to pause, reflect and consider the problems affecting children.
We’re talking about the growing number of abandoned babies, cases of abuse – physical, sexual, emotional - involving children, violence and much, much more.
There is the rising number of children who are being sent out on the streets at odd hours to make money for their families. Let’s not forget the children that are being denied the opportunity to get an education because their parents and circumstances prevent them.
Elsewhere, look at the growing number of young kids seeking refuge with organisations like the Samoa Victims Support Group. Look at the number of rape cases being brought before the Courts, consider how men entrusted with looking after these children are turning on them, even in some cases members of the clergy.
Away from sex attacks and evil crime, there are problems that are less discussed because they are not really viewed as serious enough. We’re talking about a generation of young people who are addicted to their phones, internet and social media sites, they have become the worst of introverts. There is also the issue of a generation of Samoans who cannot speak their own language, even though they are living and growing up here.
There is a generation of young Samoans who do not know their culture, especially when it comes to ava fatafata and fa’aaloalo. These are real issues.
There are a lot more problems but we’ll stop here.
Today is a day to celebrate our children but it should also be a day of reflection and assessment.
Are we preparing to give them the best future possible? We need to think about what’s most important for them and the kind of future that will be good for them. When all is said and done, this is what matters.
Happy White Sunday Samoa, God bless!