photo from RNZ

APIA,14 NOVEMBER 2019 (TVNZ/SAVALI NEWSPAPER) — Prayer and family support are the only things giving grieving Samoan mum Faao Tuivale any comfort as she mourns the loss of two of her children.

Her infants are jointly buried in a grave after dying from suspected measles.

“We depend on God to give us comfort and strength, we miss them so much but our faith in God will guide us through this,” grandfather Matavale Toailoa told 1 NEWS.

Tuivale’s surviving two-year-old twin is also gravely ill from the measles, but the family have taken her out of the hospital as they’ve lost faith with the health system.

They’re hoping traditional medicine will cure her and the disease won’t spread to others.

“We are concerned, as you can see, we have three kids, three sick kids and we are fasting because we believe that God will get us through this,” Toailoa said.

As the death toll grows, panicked parents are racing to get their children vaccinated. One clinic along gave 1000 injections in just one day.

Currently, eight children are in intensive care in hospital in Apia, and there have been eight suspected deaths among more than 700 cases, all but one of them young children.

Immunisation rates have been at a low 41 per cent – it’s taken this crisis to change that.

“I think we have been very complacent especially the public at large and it’s also our fault for failing to convince them to do immunisation,” said Samoa director general of health Leausa Take Naseri.

Medical authorities are working around the clock, looking after the sick and trying to protect the vulnerable.

New Zealand has been asked for more vaccines and people power to relieve stretched staff.

Such is the level of need, Australia is building a makeshift intensive care unit, which should be up and running by the weekend.

Auckland University immunologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris said things were unravelling in Samoa.

“It’s like throwing a match on dry tinder, it’s going off very fast.”

For frightened parents it’s about protecting their children, but for some families, it’s just too late.

As of Monday, this week, the measles epidemic mortality has claimed 10 lives. But some of the fatalities are treated as suspected to have been caused by measles and others indirectly associated to the measles epidemic, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.

What can be confirmed is that some of the measles related deaths are children in the Most Vulnerable Group starting from new born to 4 years old, the Director General of Health Leausa Dr Take Naseri revealed in an exclusive interview with the Savali Newspaper.

“In Samoa one death is an epidemic and we are doing everything possible to contain the measles epidemic to minimise any further loss of life,” the Director General said.

At this time also, MOH has received 48 lab confirmed results from the 628 cases referred overseas for testing.

Since the epidemic was declared, over 20-thousand (20,176) residents have received measles vaccination.

Of that number, a little over 3 thousand (3,018) children in the 6 months to 4-years old group, classified as the most Vulnerable Group to contract measles have been injected with the vaccination.

And while the Director General of Health, appreciates the public response he is reiterating his earlier public pleas for parents with children in the Vulnerable Group to heed the calls from Health officials to get their children vaccinated.

With the same token he is also appealing to adults to give the young children first priority as they are most vulnerable to contract the dreaded disease.

As a Public Message, measles vaccinations are available at all the District Hospitals in Upolu and Savaii.

And Leausa has assured that with the assistances from the United Nations complemented by New Zealand and Australia, there is sufficient vaccine supplies available……(PACNEWS)