Groups organize relief effort for Samoan measles epidemic

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The area’s Samoan and Pacific Islander community is marshaling a relief effort in response to the deadly measles epidemic in Samoa.

The latest count is 73 dead with the vast majority of victims being children 4 years old or younger.

It is a major disaster for the island country of around 190,000 people, which is similar to the population of Elk Grove.

A drop-off location at the Cornerstone Samoan Assembly of God has been set up for donations of supplies requested by the Samoan government. Those include diapers, soap, off-the-shelf pain medicine, vitamins, plastic gloves, blankets and face masks.

“You know, the little things that we here in the United States probably don’t see a lot of value in, it goes a long way in Samoa,” said Pastor Ben Afisivalu, a coordinator of Operation Relief for Samoa.

He is in touch with government officials and relatives in Samoa and said the epidemic is especially emotional for Samoan natives.

“A child is a gift. You can’t lose a child and especially for something like this,” said Afisivalu.

One family lost three children to the disease.

Some attribute the outbreak to an anti-vaccine campaign that surfaced there several years ago and caused some parents not to vaccinate their kids.

In recent weeks, government offices and schools have been shut down to try to halt the spread of the highly infectious disease. A massive vaccination effort is now underway.

The scare has hit the adjacent island of American Samoa, an American territory. Schools there have also been shut down.

Sacramento State Senator Richard Pan, a vaccine advocate who butted heads with anti-vaccine advocates at the State Capitol, has endorsed the relief effort.

It is being undertaken in four western states where there is a big concentration of Samoan and Pacific Islander immigrants.

In the Valley area, there are two collection sites — one in Sacramento and the other in Pittsburg:

Cornerstone Samoan Assembly of God
Tauama Timoti, pastor
3910 Marysville Blvd.
Sacramento, Calif. 95838
916-236-8626

Light House Samoan Assembly of God
Ben Afisivalu, lead pastor
1210 Stoneman Ave.
Pittsburg, Calif. 94565
707-386-8335

A GoFundMe account has also been set up to help pay for the shipment of donated supplies.

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