P.M. denies poverty, impetigo link

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegoi, has dismissed claims poverty is driving Samoa’s high rate of impetigo cases, rejecting statements by former health chief Leota Laki Sio.

Earlier this week former National Health Service General Manager Leota Laki Sio told the Samoa Observer alarming rates of impetigo in the nation suggests the “root of the problem” was poverty. 

His comments followed a study that found more than half of school children in Samoa had the contagious skin condition or nearly four times the global average.

Tuilaepa questioned what Leota meant by the word poverty, saying he does not believe poverty exists in Samoa.

“If he had come to me directly about this I would have asked him: ‘What is poverty?’ He doesn’t know how to answer,” he said.

“What is poverty? Do they not have food? There is no one in Samoa who should be hungry, there is so much food – breadfruit, bananas, taro – unless it is someone who is [too] lazy [to get it].

“Up to now I do not know of one person who died from hunger. It is hard for me to accept a weak statement like this.

“So you keep asking the question [of] why we have a poor selection of food.

“And if it relates to the economic status of the family then you ask again why. You keep asking why and the root of the problem is poverty.”

Leota is a candidate in the April election, running under the flag of the Fa’atuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party. He is contesting the seat of Palauli 2.

The Lancet study revealed that out of 833 children (428 males, 397 females and eight unspecified) studied across eight primary schools in the Falealili District, some 476 had impetigo of which 263 were active infections.

The P.M. continued that such statements should not come from someone who held a high position in the health sector.

He noted that he continuously tells the heads of Government Ministries and agencies to convey their recommendations and thoughts directly to Cabinet so action can be taken. 

“He was there when the Ministry of Health was separated from the National Health Services, and he did not bring in anything [when he was in the position],” Tuilaepa said.

“Now I am asking him: ‘What is poverty? What exactly is it?’ I have never seen anyone run around town naked but I have seen it in other countries, but never in Samoa.”

Tuilaepa made claims about Leota’s performance as the N.H.S. General Manager, which could not be independently verified. 

The P.M. said similar to all those who had previously worked in Government and are now on the other side when looked into closely, there are reasons why they left, "and it's not good."



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