Samoa uses community strength, local knowledge and collective memory to prepare for Covid-19

Samoan family discussing Coivid -19 with Nurse Max and Dr. Dyxon Hansell in Savai’i. Photo courtesy of WHO.

In Samoa, memory of the tragic measles outbreak in late 2019 has galvanized communities’ commitment to keep themselves safe from Covid-19, using traditional resources and a holistic approach.

In early 2020, health authorities in Samoa became aware that if the coronavirus arrived, health facilities and health workers could be overwhelmed.

High rates of non-communicable diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease means that many people would be extremely vulnerable to the virus. It is a similar situation for several other Pacific countries and areas which, as of October 2020, had not had a single Covid-19 case: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Pitcairn Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu.

Seeing that Samoa, a country of 195,000, needed to pull together as one, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), through the Delivering as One UN initiative, developed a community engagement strategy to boost health beyond the pandemic. Key partners also included the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, disability advocacy organization Nuanua O Le Alofa, suicide prevention organization Fa’ataua le Ola, the Samoa Red Cross Society, and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA).