Is now not time for the Government to declare a state of emergency?
This much cannot be denied. Not many people – if anyone at all – would not have been affected one way or another by the story titled “Lauli’i family buries two infants”. It was published on the front page of the Sunday Samoan.
The story of the parents having to bury two of their children on the same day is heart-wrenching. You don’t need to be related, or know any of the people involved in this story, to feel so dispirited by it.
The truth is that the story of Paulo and Fa’aoso Tuivale and their children is a tragedy in every meaning of the word. To lose one child is difficult enough.
But words cannot begin to describe what it is like to have two children die in the space of five days, and then as parents fronting up to have to bury them both on the same day.
Ladies and gentlemen, this must be the most excruciatingly painful experience any parent could be subjected to. And yet that is precisely what the Tuivales of Lauli’i have been through.
When reporter, Adel Fruean, from this newspaper visited the family on Saturday for an interview, Paulo was too distraught to speak to the media. That’s understandable. We don’t want to pretend to know what he and his wife must be going through. The truth is we don’t and unless anyone has lost two children under similar circumstances, no one else will.
What we do know is that two days before the second death, Paulo did find the courage to speak after his first child, Itila Tuivale, died. During an interview with the Samoa Observer, he demanded answers from the Ministry of Health.
He also said his son's death came after two other family members became ill with measles.
“My wife and three kids including Itila were taken to be checked for measles but the doctor said that only my wife and one of my children [twin girl] has measles,” he said.
Itila was not diagnosed with measles, but Paulo was not convinced.
“I was very worried because my child had a fever which was one of the symptoms but of course I trusted the doctor’s advice and took Itila home," he said. “My wife and children were confined at the hospital. But everything changed when my son started showing signs of a rash on Monday.
“We took him (back) to the hospital on Monday around 5pm but he was later pronounced dead around 8pm on the same night. The sad part was that no doctor came up to us and told us the cause of death for our child.”
He then told of the anguish and pain of losing his boy.
“My wife would not let go of his body [Itila] on that night and I tried my best to be strong but it was useless, I never expected something like this to happen,” he said. “No parent would want to lose a child, especially at such a young age. I sometimes wonder what he would be like in the future.”
When the Samoa Observer spoke with Paulo on Wednesday last week, he said they were planning to bury Itila on Friday. In a tragic twist of events, his daughter, Tamara, died on that Friday so that by Saturday, the family had to say goodbye to both children.
Today, the Ministry of Health is yet to respond to questions from this newspaper about the deaths of the Tuivales. Whether they plan to address this or not, we don’t know, but the absence of a response so far is symptomatic of the handling of this measles epidemic from the start – in as far as media queries go.
Folks, we acknowledge that the Ministry of Health has a crisis on their hands, and maybe responding to media queries is not necessarily on the top of their list. We also acknowledge with gratitude the work that is being done by health officers all across the nation as part of the national response.
But the Director of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, and his team have got to do better in terms of communicating their messages to the public. This is an epidemic that is threatening the health of an entire nation. It is a crisis already for crying out loud.
You would think that communicating critical messages to the public on a daily basis, or even on hourly basis, would be part of the strategy to combat this contagious disease? From what we are seeing, this is clearly not the case. The last official update was released on Thursday last week. And even on that update, it quoted figures from Monday 4 November 2019.
Today is Tuesday 12 November 2019. It means that for a whole week, members of the public are in the dark on the latest figures about a crisis, that everyone is concerned about. This is not good enough.
The deaths of the infants at Lauli’i are suspected measles cases. And so are other cases – the majority of them innocent children.
We are of the view that this Government should not treat this matter as business as usual. A crisis deserves a crisis-like response.
One life lost is one too many. This country has lost more than one life. That is a fact. How many more lives need to be lost for this Government to declare a state of emergency?
Today, we strongly believe it is time for the Government to elevate its response.
Exams can wait, whatever else can wait. If measles is further spread by public gatherings as they say, then do whatever is necessary to ensure there are no public gatherings anymore. That means close schools now, postpone exams until another time, cancel church gatherings and ban all public events.
We are aware that some will say this is extreme and we are creating panic amongst members of the public.
But ask the Tuivales at Lauli’i what they think. And if you even begin to understand their pain, then we must not let the deaths of Itila and Tamara be in vain. The pain that their parents are going through is something we don’t want to wish on anyone.
Do you think it’s time for the Government to declare a state of emergency?
Write and share your thoughts. Stay safe Samoa, God bless!