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$34 million World Bank grant for measles, health

Samoa will draw T$34 million (US$12.8 million) from the World Bank to manage the measles epidemic and fix the health system over the next five years.

A grant of US$3.5 million (T$9.3 million) will go towards the measles epidemic response; a further $9.3 million (T$24.7 million) will be spent between 2020 and 2025 on a health sector strengthening programme which will be focused on disease prevention across the board. 

This includes healthcare reform, workforce development and community based efforts to prevent and manage disease.

Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, Director General of the Ministry of Health said the epidemic has proven the importance of health promotion and disease prevention.

“Protecting the health and prosperity of our people is essential to the future of Samoa,” he said.

“This measles outbreak has dramatically and tragically demonstrated the importance of sustained health promotion and risk reduction.”

Measles has so far claimed at least 70 lives and infected 4,693 people. The Government undertook drastic measures to vaccinate the entire population, and reports it reached around 90 per cent on Friday.

Most victims of measles so far are children, majority of which are under four years old. 

As of 2018, just 31 per cent of babies had their first dose of measles containing vaccine and 13 per cent had their second, after which the vaccine programme was suspended for nine months, leaving an even bigger hole in the vaccination coverage.

It is yet to be determined exactly how much this epidemic has cost the country’s health sector, but in wages alone for the staff working 16 hour shifts to treat the massive surge in patients it will be massive. 

The Government has estimated it needs US$6,500 (T$17.2 million) to strengthen the sector’s systems, human resources, finance management and emergency preparedness. 

The initial grant is from an emergency fund the World Bank manages called the Development Policy Operation with a Catastrophe-Deferred Drawdown Option, which was approved last November with US$13.7 million in the bank for policy and budget support.

It was designed with natural disaster and climate change in mind, to ensure public services would function in the wake of a crisis.

The Ministry of Health will implement the $9.3 million grant for improving the sector, from the International Development Association (I.D.A.) of the World Bank. 

The T$34 million will be welcome news to Samoa, which has put out a national appeal for about the same amount to address health and education sector reforms to prevent another outbreak.

World Bank Vice-President for Human Development Annette Dixon said the loss of life in Samoa is deeply saddening.

“Our thoughts are with the families who have lost beloved ones and are caring for those who are ill. During this time of crisis, we support the people of Samoa and the government to fight the outbreak," she said. 

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