Lunches for Medical Staff Fighting Measles in Samoa

The New Zealand High Commission and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Samoa have teamed up to get hot meals to the nurses working around the clock vaccinating the masses for the next two weeks.

The measles epidemic continues to sweep the nation with 1174 cases of the highly contagious disease being contracted in just three months. 16 children under five and one 37-year-old have died in measles related deaths.

ADRA Country Director Su’a Julia Wallwork said the New Zealand High Commission, looking for ways to help Samoa combat the epidemic, have put up T$38,000 to fund hot lunches, fruit and water for public health teams working the dozen vaccination clinics around the Apia Urban Area.

Already this week ADRA have been delivering water and snacks to the crowds waiting for their turn to get vaccinated.

“This is the time when we do what we are needed,” Su’a said. “Our motto is we are free of any prejudice of religion or race, we just go where the need is.”

Not one to miss out on the action, Su’a herself was in one of several vans deployed to deliver meals, cooked by a reputable (but unnamed) caterer). “So today we’re getting them beef stir fry, egg foo young, fruit, water… it makes me hungry just thinking about it,” she said with a laugh.

In the height of the days heat, delivering food is sweaty work. But the ADRA team are efficient, emptying dozens of lunch boxes and bags of fruit to the clinic doorways and heading off to the next station. But not before the grateful nursing staff happily pose for a quick photo, and to exchange words of thanks. One nurse at the Acute Primary Care Clinic said she barely has time to eat lunch these days, and has not had a day off for three weeks – including Sundays.

“When the outbreak became very serious we looked at how we could help after the Government declared a State of Emergency,” said Su’a.

“We felt the need was at the vaccination stations where we can provide some relief for those people waiting…Our team are so moved, because they are so grateful. Some of them, sitting out there in the heat, just to get a bottle of water and something for the children to eat, they have been more than happy.”

The partnership with the New Zealand High Commission is for the next 14 days for now, but ADRA will continue bringing supplies to the waiting areas of the vaccination clinics until the epidemic is over. The ADRA network is being mobilised to help in other areas too.

One major project underway is the import of eight neonatal ventilators for the hospitals treating severe cases of measles in intensive care.

“It is sad that we are going through this but we just want to see what we can do, wherever we can help. That is what we are here for…There are a lot of people working so hard, and we are only a small part of it.”

Article by Sapeer Maryon, published in the Samoan Observer.
Photo by Vaitogi Asuisui Matafeo