The Government of Samoa has declared a state of emergency in order to respond to the measles outbreak in the country, which is mainly affecting children. The World Health Organization (WHO) has asked European countries for assistance in responding to the epidemic. ‘The situation is grave. The health care system in Samoa does not have the capacity to deal with an outbreak of this scale, and capacity in the region is limited. Young children in particular are at risk of becoming seriously ill. I am pleased that Norway is able to respond positively to the WHO’s request for humanitarian support,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.
The measles outbreak in Samoa is escalating, and there is still a significant shortage of health workers, despite the fact that other countries in the region have sent health personnel to alleviate the situation. More than 4000 cases of infection have been confirmed. So far, 60 measles-related deaths have been recorded; 48 of these victims were children under four years of age. Samoa has a population of just 200 000. WHO’s assessment is that the outbreak has not yet reached its peak, and that the number of cases, and thus the strain on the local health services, will continue to increase.
‘Norway has expertise that the local authorities in Samoa need in this situation, and our help will be a valuable contribution in the efforts to fight the outbreak,’ said Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
On 30 November, Norway sent an emergency medical team (EMT) to Samoa. The team consists of medical doctors, public health experts, nurses, and experienced logistics personnel. The Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection is responsible for this deployment, in cooperation with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Norwegian Directorate of Health, the four regional health authorities, and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
‘The emergency medical team was established in order to be able to be deployed at short notice to global health emergencies. I am glad that we can contribute and, at the same time, learn how to improve our expertise and our preparedness to tackle difficult medical situations,’ said Minister of Public Security Ingvil Smines Tybring-Gjedde.
Other countries who are sending health workers include France, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Japan and the US.
‘The measles epidemic in Samoa is a reminder that measles is still a deadly disease that claims lives when not enough of the population is vaccinated. We must do what we can to help in crises such as this one. At the same time, working globally to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as measles, for example by providing support to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is a key priority for the Government,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein.