Measles overseas aid to be declared in Samoa Parliament

A live coldchain vaccine delivery of MMR in Samoa. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Jenny Meyer

APIA, 16 DECEMBER 2019 (SAMOA OBSERVER/MFAT) – Financial assistance for the measles epidemic from overseas has amounted to more than $22.4 million (US$8.2 million) to date and will this week be tabled before Parliament for scrutiny.

The Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi on Saturday confirmed the tabling of a supplementary budget to reflect the influx of overseas assistance from other nations and international organisations:

“This will be included in the supplementary budget and will be table before Parliament on Tuesday for the lawmakers to go through it. A total of $9.3 million (US$3.4 million) from overseas partners and $706,000 (US$263,000) local donations will be included in this supplementary and where the money will be spent,” he said.

The Prime Minister stated this position was endorsed in Cabinet on Saturday. He made it clear there are already people accusing the Government of misappropriating the donations.

“But that is not true. No one can use these funds, not even a penny,” he said, explaining the funds are being monitored by the Ministry of Finance.

“The funds will go before Parliament for their deliberation and there will be Committee hearings conducted with the relevant ministries that will get funding from these donations.”

Financial assistance for the crisis includes WST$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 (WST$9.3 million) will go towards the measles epidemic response, and a further $9.3 million (T$24.7 million) will be spent between 2020 and 2025 on a health sector strengthening programme that will focus on disease prevention across the board.

Last week, the Methodist Church donated over WST$100,000 tala (US$37,000) cash together with patient beds and bedding to the Government as part of its contribution to the fight against the measles epidemic.

The National Emergency Operation Centre has advised the public that all donations will go through their office.

For the duration of the Proclamation of Emergency, the General Public is hereby advised of the following:

All organisations or Individuals who wish to donate towards the measles epidemic may do so through the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEO.) located at the old Post Office across from the ANZ Bank on Beach Road.  NEOC is responsible for the coordination of ALL assistance and donations.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Winston Peters has announced New Zealand will contribute NZ$1 million (US$659,000) of funding towards the joint United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Pacific Regional Action Plan for Measles.

“Prevention through vaccination is the most effective way of avoiding illness and a costly health emergency. New Zealand has collaborated with UNICEF and WHO to identify regional vulnerabilities and opportunities for early interventions to prevent further outbreaks,” Minister Peters said.

“This plan offers immediate preventative action. It allows for the flexibility to respond to additional requests from other Pacific nations and offers an efficient way of working regionally.”

Activities under the plan include targeted vaccination for children up to the age of five years of age, supplementary vaccine doses for new mothers and their families to protect babies too young to be vaccinated and increased measles surveillance, public health and epidemiology support to those countries most at risk.

New Zealand’s support to the regional action plan is complementary to funding 200,000 vaccines for Fiji’s current mass vaccination campaign, provision of medical supplies and emergency funding to support the mobilisation of health workers to undertake vaccinations in Tonga and the extensive package of financial, material and personnel support in response to Samoa’s measles outbreak.

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