Call for more support for bereaved families in Samoa in wake of measles crisis

Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

Almost six months since the measles epidemic in Samoa, a senior counsellor is calling for better support systems from government and communities for families who lost loved ones to the disease.

Eighty-three people died during the epidemic – most of them children.

Samoa Crisis Center co-ordinator Taimalelagi Ramona Tugaga said she had helped counsel 85 families over the past two months.

But she said it was not enough as more needed to be done to help bereaved families.

“We feel that everyone is now aware but it’s still a long way to go to trusting the health system. You know, there was so much uncertainty.

“I feel they’re still traumatised. The mothers are still grieving and mourning. These families were mostly left to themselves. There wasn’t enough support.

“I feel that we still need to work on the families that have lost.”

She said many families, especially mothers, still blamed themselves for the deaths of their children.

While some of the families were recovering well, Taimalelagi said there were others who needed further support.

“We still need to work on how they feel – not to make them feel guilty,” she said.

“We need to tell them that this is what happened with your child because he or she was not vaccinated.

“And it has been very hard for some of these families to deal with these issues.”

Taimalelagi said she was saddened to hear of how some mothers refused to get their children vaccinated because they did not trust the health system.

“This one incident that happened in Savai’i where the nurses with the two MMR cases – that built the whole uncertainty for many mothers,” she said.

Taimalelagi called on the government to do more – to work closely with the bereaved families and to continue to implement its awareness programs on measles and other diseases.

More Stories