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Measles epidemic in Samoa: How New Zealanders can help

November 28th, 2019

UNICEF: Measles epidemic in Samoa: How New Zealanders can help

Samoa is in the grip of a Measles epidemic and UNICEF New Zealand is providing ways for Kiwis to make a difference and support affected children and families.

A combination of the worsening crisis and calls from New Zealanders wanting to help, has prompted UNICEF New Zealand to initiate an emergency campaign in order to fundraise and intensify the response to the measles epidemic in Samoa.

Executive Director of UNICEF New Zealand says the organisation is responding to the desperate need in Samoa “This feels personal for Kiwis, our two nations are bound together on many levels. People want to know how they can help our neighbours in the Pacific, especially the Samoan and wider Pasifika communities in New Zealand.”

UNICEF are world-leaders with emergency response. As the lead agency supporting the Samoan government to contain the epidemic, UNICEF is perfectly placed to have a significant impact and save lives.

“We had to be certain about what is already being provided and what more we could be doing before asking New Zealander for donations.” UNICEF has already provided 110,000 vaccines as well as tents for immunisation stations, and the cold storage needed to ensure the vaccines remain safe and effective. An additional 54,000 doses of the MR vaccine will be making its way to Apia in the next week.

“With more funds raised UNICEF will be able to reach more children, faster.

This will slow down the spread of this killer disease. In the best-case scenario, it will stop the outbreak in its tracks.” Maidaborn says

What is raised over and above what’s needed to contain the epidemic will be funnelled to public awareness campaigns to reduce the likelihood of another outbreak. Maidaborn says that with a lot of misinformation around, the public health campaign is an essential tool. “Making sure people have the right information is paramount and an important part of the battle in eliminating these contagious diseases.”

Measles is highly contagious, more so than Ebola, tuberculosis or influenza. The virus can be contracted by someone up to two hours after an infected person has left a room. It spreads through air and infects the respiratory tract, potentially killing malnourished children or babies too young to be vaccinated. Once infected, there is no specific treatment for measles, so vaccination is a life-saving tool for children.

The Samoa Ministry of Health declared an outbreak of Measles on 16th October and a state of emergency was declared on 15th November.

As of November 28, the Ministry of Health confirms a total of 2,936 cases and 39 measles related deaths, with 250 new cases reported within the last 24 hours. Most of the 176 currently hospitalised patients are children, some of them critically ill in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Source: Government of Samoa facebook page.

There are a host of restrictions in place to stop the disease spreading, all the schools are closed; and children under 18 are strongly advised not to attend public gatherings, pregnant women are restricted from attending their workplace.”

Maidaborn says another essential way New Zealanders can help the situation in Samoa is to make sure, if they are travelling to and from Samoa, they are vaccinated. “At this time of year, many families are traveling and getting together. As measles is so highly contagious, these family gatherings could cause the outbreak to worsen.”

New Zealanders can donate at:

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

For more information about UNICEF New Zealand and our work, particularly in Aotearoa, visit our website.

Follow UNICEF New Zealand on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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