Having survived the 6th week of the government declared COVID-19 State of Emergency since 20th April 2020, is an understatement. This is because Samoa Victim Support Group have seen inequality and poverty staring us at the face while distributing relief packages for families in need of help during this health crisis.
During this 6-weeks period, SVSG had received 415 requests for assistance; 345 callers to the SVSG Help Line, 39 through the social media, 23 via email, and 8 from walk in clients; the abused women and girls, the abandoned children and the suicidal mothers. Majority of the requests were from underprivileged families at 175, requesting food, access to clean water, assistance with the payment of water bill and cash power.
From week 1 until this 6th week, the tension has been building up, forcing our people to resort to extreme measures just to survive.
Gender based violence have been challenged to the extreme during these last 6 weeks, accounting for 46 of the cases being handled and referred to Police.
Families have lodged complaints against families for stepping across those land boundaries to gather food from others plantation; mothers have kicked out their daughters from home for not bringing home enough to cater for the family needs; fathers have lodged complaints against their sons for drinking and causing trouble instead of supporting the family, and the long standing fued between husbands against wives escalates as both are forced to stay in close proximity to each other due to unemployment and being layed off from work.
There were households of up to 20 people squarting in a small hutt that could barely stand the pouring rain. Then we have mothers and their children, awaiting us in the dark, just to get some food for the night. Others walked towards our cars to get their relief supplies, because we couldn’t get past the poor road conditions.
As much as we wanted to bring all of them under our care, SVSG is not one to resolve to bandage solutions. We have to work on changing our people’s mentality towards subsistence living to address inequality and poverty amongst the underprivileged.
Because if we can do it for the empowered nofotane women who is now the breadwinner in her family through the works of her hand, then we can definitely do it for the rest of our vulnerable families.
In the meantime, SVSG and its family of supporters have been able to provide the basic necessities to those in need; while awaiting their husbands being called back to work, or remittance from their relatives working under the Seasonal Workers Scheme etc.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang therefore acknowledged the financial donation of ST3,000 received this week from Levaoatuamaaana Aati-Schuster and the Team from The Alofa Charitable Trust (T.A.C.T) of New Zealand, which enabled us to replenish the supply of rice, noodles, flour, sugar and other necessities for our families relief packages.
Thank you also Louisa Apelu and the Team at Spotlight Initiative (UNDP) for supporting the administration of the Help Line so that the spotlight will be on those most often left behind; UNICEF Pacific for financing food supplies for our children at the Campus and those in the community during this time; and ANZ Bank for supporting SVSG’s work on domestic violence. “Together, we have bridged the inequality gap while saving lives during this health crisis.”