“I don’t want any more children to be buried without a coffin.”
They’re blunt words, but according to volunteer worker Tuala Tagaloa Tusani it’s the reality for some in Samoa as the measles outbreak spreads its grip.
“At times it feels like a losing battle when you hear numbers keep going up because of the loss of so many children, especially children,” he said.
“It’s an emotional and painful time.”
1 NEWS met him at church on Sunday morning in South Auckland’s Papatoetoe.
There was a moment’s silence at the start of the service, as Samoans in New Zealand work to get aid back home.
“Their pain is our pain and their suffering is our suffering,” Reverend Alosina Vavae told 1 NEWS.
“It’s like a catastrophe in Samoa, like a plague,” he said.
When asked how that feels for people, the Reverend had one repeated word – “sadness”.
Tuala Tagaloa Tusani has been regularly travelling back and forth taking supplies as part of his work with the ASA Foundation.
“When we started we were only looking for a one cubic metre box [of supplies], now we’ve got containers and I think that love and outpouring of support uplifts us especially at this time.”
But he told 1 NEWS he was exhausted and anxious about taking coffins back to Samoa.
“It’s something that you never wish to do, I’m afraid of them [coffins] myself, I’m scared of that, I’m scared of it.”
Community leader Teleiai Edwin Puni, the foundation’s chairman, says giving children “a decent funeral” is what their latest efforts are for.
“We’ve seen the sad sight of children being buried, just them and the parents and the minister without a coffin, just a box,” he said.
He said Samoa would reel from the outbreak for some time.
“It takes a village to raise a child, but that’s one child, what happens when that child dies? The whole village is affected,” he said.
He said from there, because of the sheer number of children who have died, all of Samoa is grappling with the emotions that the deaths have brought.
Reverend Vavae’s advice for others, is simple.
“Keep on praying, remember Samoa.”