Emergency grant means women can ensure a gender inclusive response to Samoa Measles Crisis

On October 09 2019, the Ministry of Health held a news conference in Apia to announce a suspected measles case that may be transmitted from the Auckland outbreak. A measles epidemic was confirmed by the Government of Samoa on 16 October. The Samoan government responded by closing all primary schools from 15 November and all high schools as of 29 November. At the time more than 300 people, mostly young children, were suspected to have the viral illness. Three people have died from suspected measles cases since the declaration of the epidemic. As of 09 December 2019, the death toll from Samoa’s measles epidemic yesterday reached 70, with 87 percent of those killed aged four years or younger. The government ordered a shutdown of the nation on Thursday and Friday to try to cope with the epidemic. Samoa’s government said on Sunday it had vaccinated about 90 percent of the population. Nearly 4700 cases of measles diagnosed since October 2019.


“We want to understand the gender impact of the measles epidemic particular to ensure young, sexually active women or pregnant women who are a high risk group are included in the long term response. This also means ensuring that the right message is reaching families, through appropriate and accessible channels so that they are more vigilant about vaccinating children,” says Taimamelagi Ramona Tugaga the General Secretary and Programme Coordinator of the Samoa Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).

Since 2018, DFAT’s  Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development is contributing to strengthening diverse women’s leadership in humanitarian action. The Shifting the Power Coalition project brings together the leadership of 13 women leaders from across six Pacific Island countries to share experiences, collaborate and amplify recommendations so that more  diverse Pacific women’s voices, agency and decision making informing disaster preparedness, response and recovery at national and community level. ActionAid Australia as a women’s rights focused humanitarian organisation supports Coalition members to engage in the humanitarian system.

As the StPC tracked the situation in Samoa as well as the response and support for the Samoan Government from UN agencies and governments we found gaps in information.

It is not easy to ascertain from the reports the gender impact of the measles epidemic and there it was not clear on how the crisis was affecting persons with disabilities and LGBTQI community and also how they were accessing information and assistance.

It was not clear how the crisis was impacting the burden of unpaid care work by women, in particular women, including young women.

There was a need for a strong protection messages to support women in their communities.

With advice from government allies, we were able to understand the best added value to our response particularly for the long term recovery – for example, how can the lessons learnt from this crisis inform young women who are sexually active or pregnant, who are a high risk group and also ensure that the message on ensuring the vaccination of children to prevent a further crisis was vital.

Drawing on the technical expertise of ActionAid Australia, the Steering Committee worked together and adopted the funding criteria. Everyone agreed that the Emergency response will be women led and support local women’s leadership in response to an emergency. This can be to support increased human resource capacity and/or specific activities led by women and/or focused on responding to the specific needs and protection of diverse women in the response.

As a result of the funding support from the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Programme, the StPC Emergency Grant mechanism is an avenue to quickly mobilise up to AUD5000 support for members of the coalition to organise at community, local and national decision following a crisis to take the lead in ensuring the needs and interests of women and girls in the long term response recovery efforts.

The grants are available for StPC members in Bougainville, Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. Humanitarian emergencies can include cyclone, flooding, disease outbreak, earthquake, food crisis other emergency that affects a significant part of the population and has been declared by the Government as a national emergency.