USAID Global Health will be releasing US$200,000 of disaster assistance to respond to the need of disaster-affected people due to the measles outbreak. We’re working with our interagency partners like the CDC Global to help our friends in Samoa. Samoa ia maua pea le lototele.
Responding to the measles crisis: an update on United States assistance to Samoa
Seventy Hawaiian healthcare professionals arrived in Samoa this morning to help with the two-day mass immunization campaign. A team of 55 nurses and 15 physicians, were transported to Samoa by Hawaiian Airlines and Fiji Airways has donated the return flight. The group plan to assist by administering vaccinations and providing healthcare to those infected by the disease. The delegation is being led by Hawaii’s Lt. Governor Josh Green, himself a doctor with a background in emergency room medicine. Logistical arrangements on the ground in Samoa are being facilitated by the World Health Organization.
Last week the United States provided hundreds of thousands of dollars of USAID funding for immediate assistance. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is partnering with the World Health Organization, which is helping to coordinate the international teams working in support of Samoa’s measles response. With this assistance, WHO will:
Deploy and coordinate Emergency Medical Teams of specially trained international medical professionals;
Provide local authorities with additional personal protective equipment and medical supplies – such as hand sanitizer, gowns, masks, gloves, eye protection, and patient separators – to prevent and control the spread of measles infections;
Conduct vaccination awareness campaigns in all 49 of Samoa’s districts;
Support the Government of Samoa’s vaccination campaign and measles surveillance program with technical assistance; and
Train local Samoans in psychological first aid to assist grieving families and communities who have lost loved ones or been impacted by this outbreak.
Last week’s USAID emergency funding complements the work USAID and WHO do in the Pacific year-round to train and equip the regional Emergency Medical Teams that are supporting the measles response in Samoa. With support from USAID, WHO is working with health ministries throughout the Pacific region to strengthen these rapid response teams, which can be deployed to help countries quickly and effectively respond to disease outbreaks and health emergencies during disasters.
Two experts from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control (CDC) have arrived in Samoa. This team is providing technical assistance to improve epidemiology, support campaign implementation and monitoring, coordinate and conduct rapid coverage assessments, and advise on future vaccination activities.
The US Ambassador to Samoa, Ambassador Scott Brown, reiterated that the vaccine is safe and effective.
“The advice to Samoan families from the specialists from the CDC echoes the official advice from the Samoan Government: The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your community is to make sure you and all your loved ones get vaccinated,” says Ambassador Brown. “You can save lives today. If you have unvaccinated folks in your household, please tie a piece of red cloth outside so that the doctors and nurses can easily identify the homes needing most assistance.”
A U.S. Navy medical officer, usually based in Auckland, remains in Samoa helping us determine the best ways the United States can usefully provide assistance—in the short, medium and long-term.
Our Embassy team has been in touch with the Samoan Government every day since the beginning of this outbreak. Ambassador Brown expects the situation in the island nation to continue to evolve and says the U.S. is reviewing the situation hourly.
“It is important to us that the assistance the United States is providing is what’s needed. Coordination is pivotal. We are taking our lead from the Samoan Government to supplement and expand with a targeted and effective response. Partner nations, intergovernmental agencies, and NGOs are meeting regularly and working together to ensure we don’t duplicate efforts or resources,” adds the Ambassador.