Samoa declares state of emergency over measles epidemic as child deaths mount

Samoa's government announced a state of emergency this evening as the measles epidemic continues to claim young lives in the region. 

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1 NEWS Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver is in Apia, where she was invited to attend the joint funeral for two young cousins. Source: 1 NEWS

There have been nine suspected deaths from the disease - most of them children - with more than 700 cases reported.

All isolation wards are full and the main hospital is at capacity. Many children are in critical condition.

The state of emergency will include a ban on any mass gatherings and an urgency will be given to vaccinating 100,000 people. 

It will mostly impact on government processes in order to fast-track and remove red tape, prioritising budgets dealing with the measles epidemic.

It comes as another child died in Samoa overnight from the illness, pushing up the death toll.

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I NEWS’ Pacific Correspondent spoke to Breakfast from Apia. Source: Breakfast

Grieving families today held a joint funeral for two of their youngest who are believed to have died from measles. 

One-year-old Lologa Samuelu died in Motootua National Hospital’s intensive care unit last week, and two days later his six-month-old cousin Isaako Junior died there too.

Another family is in grief after their baby died at the same hospital overnight.

Baby Samuelu’s grandmother, Gafo Taufoe Samuelu, told 1 NEWS her grandchildren are her life and she doesn’t know when she will accept they are gone.

“We are not happy. We need to see them all the time. We are looking inside my house - we miss them," she says. 

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Some with severely sick children are turning to alternative treatment, sparking major concerns, 1 NEWS Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver reports. Source: 1 NEWS

The church has come to support the family, their solidarity giving them some comfort.

“We have a very strong connection in the family," says family chief Galo Pula Saluatele Moors. "That is one of the most important things in the Samoan family - like everyone is looking after each other and care for each other.” 

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There have been eight suspected measles deaths so far – all but one of them a child. Source: 1 NEWS

Meawhile, New Zealand is sending 3000 MMR vaccines and 12 nurses to help administer them.

Nurses will start arriving on Wednesday and will work in rotation to cover tired staff.