Women’s committees focus of health sector improvements

The Ministry of Health will utilise the community for public healthcare, in response to the measles epidemic which has claimed 63 lives, 58 of them children under four.

In an appeal to the entire world for help, the Government said it needs to do more to empower the village to help the health sector do its job.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, said while of course the health sector needs strengthening they will need to work with the community.

“It’s all one and the same, they all work together, not only the chiefs and orators in the village but also the Komiti Tumama (women’s committee).

Samoa launched on Friday a national measles appeal, calling for nearly T$30 million for help across sectors to recover from the epidemic.

The Ministries of Health and Women, Community and Social Development will focus on building up the Komiti Tumama and their place in public health.

“The strong partnership between Health and the Village Women’s Committees once provided a secure mechanism which ensured that the children’s immunization and general welfare programs are promoted implemented and closely monitored,” the appeal states.

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In 2014, the World Health Organisation W.H.O repackaged its non-communicable disease (N.C.D.) interventions for a uniquely Samoan setting.

Called P.E.N Fa’aSamoa (Package of Essential N.C.D. interventions), it was a village-based model for disease prevention and control, especially utilising the village women’s committees who work between the community and the government.

Using these women, villagers were being referred to healthcare earlier when abnormal symptoms were detected.

W.H.O representative in Samoa Dr. Rasul Baghirov said the programme was immensely successful and villages that employed the initiative saw better health outcomes.

“It is true that those communities that are more active, proactive and health oriented, they will be also delivering a better result because they reach out for their people there,” he said.

The programme even won an award from the 11th Pacific Health Ministers for being the best proposed solution to the N.C.D. challenge.

Another program mentioned in the national measles appeal is a plan to strengthen the Healthy Homes, Healthy Villages (Aiga ma Nuu Manuia) programme and introduce mental health support to the communities affected by the villages, to the tune of around $360,000.

Using the community for psycho-social support, something that has been done in the wake of natural disasters, will also be need this time around. 

The government is asking for US$300,000 to fund training on psychosocial support as well as getting that help to the front-line staff and communities of the measles epidemic. It is estimated the bulk of that money (US$250,000) will be needed for the latter.

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