ASG fundraiser to assist with the Samoa measles epidemic
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The government-led fundraiser to assist Samoa with the measles epidemic, which has claimed over 50 lives, will be launched today, and all government employees are given a threshold for donation of $10 while cabinet members and deputy directors have a higher amount to donate.
This was revealed at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, in which a moment of silence was observed for the measles victims, the majority of whom are children. Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who returned home last Thursday night, asked cabinet members and the community to keep Samoa in their daily prayers and to bring to Samoa some relief soon.
Information sheet on the Fundraising Committee for Assistance to Samoa distributed at the meeting showed deputy directors’ donation threshold amount is $100 while it’s $300 for directors, as well as CEOs and presidents of ASG semi-autonomous agencies.
Lolo told cabinet members that it’s very important to send a helping hand to Samoa, who are “our brothers” with the same language, culture, and bloodline - without jeopardizing American Samoa’s legal obligation and relationship with the US government.
“No matter what’s said, we are all Samoans,” said Lolo. “We cannot sit idle and do nothing while our brothers and sisters in Samoa are suffering.” Lolo explained that he made contact yesterday morning with Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who was enroute to Savai’i on government business.
Lolo said he informed Tuilaepa that American Samoa will do whatever it can to help Samoa with what it needs. He said he was told that there are not enough cars to carry out the Samoa government’s outreach programs and immunization to all villages, especially remote areas.
And if they have cars, there is a lack of funds for gasoline, said Lolo, who added that he has informed his staff to send out letters to church leaders, businesses and the community at large to help with the planned measles fundraising.
The committee will accept not only monetary donations but also food and clothing. He said the call-in center to pledge donations will be set up today at the Suigaula o le Atuvasa in Utulei with the American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority assisting with hooking up lines. The phone number will be announced today.
Lolo said policies are currently in place to protect American Samoa from the spread of measles and Tuilaepa fully understands and supports it, as most of the travelers impacted are those from Samoa.
He commended Department of Health personnel stationed at the Pago Pago International Airport who carry out screening and ensure that policies are adhered to by all travelers - both non-residents and residents.
Lolo was at the airport over the weekend monitoring at least three flights coming in and out of Tafuna. He noted an incident where a local resident tried to circumvent the set policies by seeking a waiver to allow a family with children from Samoa, to enter the territory without complying with DoH policies already in place.
(Samoa News understands that after DoH denied the request, the resident - who is believed to be a lawmaker - went to the governor, who also denied it.)
The governor said he has spoken with LBJ Medical Center chief executive officer Faumuina John Faumuina and Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua about doctors carrying out a clinical analysis of what’s happening in Samoa.
And if the outcome shows the possibility of the measles outbreak continuing, then the government will take further steps, he said, and noted that one of those steps is to extend the current public health emergency declaration, issued on Nov. 13th and valid for 30-days unless extended by the governor.
Lolo said he has asked ASG attorneys to conduct a review process of the entry permits, after he witnessed at the airport, children who arrived from Samoa and are staying with local families. He said the review process is important in ensure “our borders” continue to be protected.
Under the emergency declaration, the governor authorizes DoH, “to utilize all necessary powers under the American Samoa Emergency Health Powers Act to contain and prevent the imminent risk of a measles outbreak.”
The governor emphasized several times during the 2-hour cabinet meeting the importance of American Samoa lending a helping hand to Samoa, through the fundraising event, which is co-chaired by Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Mauga Tasi Asuega and ASG Treasurer Ueligitone Tonumape’a.
Other committee members are Port Administration director, Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele; Budget Office director Cathy Saelua; Human Resources director, Eseneiaso Liu; Chief Procurement Officer, Dr. Oreta M. Creighton; Education director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga; Development Bank of American Samoa president Ruth Matagi-Faatili; deputy secretary of Samoan Affairs Malemo Tausaga; Human and Social Services director Muavaefa’atasi John Suisala; Office of Public Information director, Tuimavave T. Laupola; and Youth and Women’s Affairs acting director Pau Roy Ausage.