UNOG-NEWS Measles Outbreak Samoa 10DEC2019
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Edited News | OCHA , WHO , UNOG

UNOG Bi-weekly press briefing: Measles Outbreak Samoa - OCHA & WHO

Efforts to help the small Pacific island of Samoa overcome a deadly measles outbreak have received a $2.6 million boost from the UN’s emergency fund, CERF.

The development – announced in New York by the organisation’s emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock - comes as deaths from the preventable disease reached 70, the vast majority being children under five.

“The United Nations’ emergency response fund, the CERF, has released $2.6 million to help responders scale up and fight back against the devastating measles outbreak in Samoa,” Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday.

“As of this morning, 4,819 measles cases have been reported to the Disease Surveillance Team since the outbreak started, according to the Ministry of Health in Samoa,” Mr. Laerke added. “There were 87 cases recorded over the past 24 hours.”

Amid reports that Samoan health providers have been “overwhelmed” by the outbreak, which was declared on 15 November, the OCHA official added that the funds would be used to provide emergency vaccinations, obstetric and neonatal care for mothers and newborns infected with measles.

In addition, the funding will help to deliver mental health and psychosocial support and provide clean water and sanitation, along with public health information.

To date, more than 120 medical teams from the World Health Organization (WHO) have also deployed throughout the country to assist with the vaccination drive.

The UN has also backed another national campaign, with workers going door-to-door to promote awareness about the importance of getting inoculations.

Such moves are seen as vital to rebuilding community confidence and trust following the deaths last year of two babies during routine vaccination, amid strong anti-vaccination sentiment.

“Obviously this is a tragedy that you can have 61 child(ren) and nine other people being basically killed by a virus that is completely preventable,” said Tarik Jasarevic, WHO spokesperson.

Shortly after the outbreak was declared on 15 November, Samoan authorities launched a mass vaccination campaign, at the same time as they announced a state of emergency.

“So far, about 90 per cent of the 143,000 people it targeted have been reached, Mr. Laerke said, noting that the island nation was not alone in suffering a measles outbreak,  linked to low immunisation coverage.

“By the end of November 2019, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and American Samoa have all reported measles outbreaks,” he said. “Prior to the ongoing outbreaks, measles vaccine coverage varied in Pacific island countries and areas, ranging from 31 per cent in Samoa to 99 per cent in the Cook Islands and Nauru.”

To contain the public health threat, the Government of Samoa has launched a national appeal for nearly $11 million, as it works to vaccinate its population and treat those who have already been affected.

Its youngest citizens are most at risk, OCHA said in a statement, along with pregnant women and new mothers.

  1. Wide shot: exterior, flag alley, sunny and windy conditions, Palais des Nations, United Nations Geneva.
  2. Medium shot: Press room, journalists, podium speakers.
  3. Medium shot: back of journalist’s head wearing listening piece in foreground, another journalist opposite with hand obscuring mouth.
  4. SOUNDBITE (EN) Jens Laerke, spokesperson, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): “The United Nations’ emergency response fund, the CERF, has released $2.6 million to help responders scale up and fight back against the devastating measles outbreak in Samoa.”
  5. Medium shot: journalist wearing headphones to left of shot, other journalists to rear.
  6. SOUNDBITE (EN) Jens Laerke, spokesperson, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): “As of this morning, 4,819 measles cases have been reported to the Disease Surveillance Team since the outbreak started, according to the Ministry of Health in Samoa. There were 87 cases recorded over the past 24 hours.”
  7. Medium shot: journalist writing on laptop, wearing headphones, back of another journalist’s head to right of shot in close up.
  8. SOUNDBITE (EN) Tarik Jasarevic, spokesperson, World Health Organization (WHO): “Obviously this is a tragedy that you can have 61 child(ren) and nine other people being basically killed by a virus that is completely preventable.”
  9. Medium shot: journalists typing on laptops.
  10. SOUNDBITE (EN) Jens Laerke, spokesperson, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): “The Government of Samoa, with support from the UN and the international community, launched a mass vaccination campaign on 20 November. This campaign has so far reached about 90 per cent of the 143,000 people it targeted.”
  11. Close up, journalist looking down.
  12. Medium shot: journalists typing on laptops.
  13. SOUNDBITE (EN) Jens Laerke, spokesperson, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): “Prior to the ongoing outbreaks, measles vaccine coverage varied in Pacific island countries and areas, ranging from only 31 per cent in Samoa to 99 per cent in the Cook Islands and Nauru.”
  14. Medium shot: journalists, one reading, the other checking his mobile phone.
  15. Medium shot: podium with three speakers, table in foreground.
  16. Medium shot: journalists in foreground and to rear.

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