Samoa gets $3.9 million tala from U.N., launches appeal for more

The United Nations have released over US$1.5 (T$3.9) million for Samoa’s measles epidemic response and another US$1.205 million for the region, and will launch an appeal on Friday on behalf of the Samoan Government for more.

Four U.N agencies have dug deep to finance not the immediate needs for the response, but also what needs to come after, responding to a request made less than a week ago.

Nearly a million dollars will go towards an economic impact assessment, post crisis surveillance and the much needed digitisation of records in the national health system, including a server to store that data in.

The immediate needs, like shipping supplies from Fiji, emergency supplies and emergency medical team costs being funded by the World Health Organisation and the U.N Population Fund (U.N.F.PA) are costing at least US$4,46,296.58.

As well as money, the Government of Samoa requested the U.N.F.P.A for an isolation delivery unit in Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital to provide full time emergency services for pregnant women.

“Pregnant women risk life-threatening complications without access to delivery and emergency obstetric care services. Women and girls may lose access to family planning services, exposing them to unintended pregnancy in perilous conditions,” the funding concept note states.

Pregnant women may not get vaccinated and child-bearing age women should avoid getting pregnant within a month of getting vaccinated. This is particularly concerning, especially if women do not have access to family planning tools or information.

There is a worry the immense pressure on the health services may crowd out maternal and reproductive health services, “impacting on access to care and increasing potential risks of morbidity and mortality.

“Based on estimates from the census, there are 44,286 women in Samoa that are currently of reproductive age, of whom 6,444 may be pregnant and require medical assistance for safe delivery of an estimated 2,148 babies in the next three months. 

“Approximately 15 per cent of these pregnancies may likely face obstetric complications that may include C-sections.”

The World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund have already procured 115,000 doses of the measles containing vaccines for Samoa, as well as 130,000 vitamin A capsules.

They also procured six vaccine refrigerators, three emergency trolleys, and 16 tents for working out of, as well as thousands of facemasks, gloves and gowns.

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The Pacific Community (S.P.C) made a major procurement of heavy equipment and dispatched it to Samoa in late November. 

Their delivery included 15 drip stands, 15 wheelchairs, eight scales, four ECG machines, oxygen cannulas and more, as well as paying for the air freight and handling charges.

All the financing is being channelled through the U.N Central Emergency Response Fund and work will be delivered by U.N agencies and several of the Government’s ministries.

U.N Resident Coordinator Simona Marinescu said the important thing is to secure funding for when the immediate assistance for the emergency is gone.

This epidemic will have long-lasting effects on the population both economically and socially. 

The Government hopes to raise millions of dollars through an National Measles Response Appeal, to be launched on Friday.

“The health sector requires some very deep reforms,” Ms. Marinescu said on the plan to digitise health records.

Even under the mass vaccination campaign, there is no guarantee every unvaccinated person can be seen to because there aren’t national digital health records.

If someone doesn’t want to get vaccinated, they can always lie and say they had one, she said.

“Can you prove anyone wrong? No. We need to know at what age they had what doses, and not only measles vaccine but their other ones.”

Currently, the Samoa Information Technology Association is busy trying to digitise the mass vaccination campaign data. But as they enter in the paper records that come in from a day’s work in the field, there are missing fields and incorrect data entry to contend with. 

Ms. Marinescu said at times, the team is having to guess whether someone is male or female based on their name, which is neither an exact science nor able to factor in fa’afafine.

“We cannot afford to live like this anymore,” she said. “Digital records are lifesaving.”

The National Measles Response Appeal will be in part asking for resources to continue building on the lessons the epidemic taught the country.

While welcome and extremely necessary, one day the aid flooding Samoa today will be gone, and the nation will have a costly and lengthy lot of work to do, Ms. Marinescu said. 

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