SAMOA – A Samoan woman who lost her husband and then her child to the measles epidemic is still struggling to come to terms with the grief.
Natasha Ierome Uia from the village of Lutopa first watched her 37-year-old husband, Usa Ielome, die – and then her five-year-old child, Oliana Ierome.
She spoke about her loss on Tuesday when the ASA Foundation visited her to offer assistance.
Uia, 28, said her husband was one of the first three deaths when the measles outbreak was declared an epidemic.
“My husband contracted the measles virus from the hospital while looking after our five months old child who was admitted for a different sickness, not measles,” she said.
“The doctors shared that despite the treatment, he had pneumonia and his kidneys were badly affected. I am not aware if my husband had his vaccination.”
But the family’s suffering did not end there.
“We were preparing to bury my husband when my five-year-old daughter passed away one week later on a Monday. We then laid both of them to rest on the same day.
“In total, three of our children contracted the virus – my five-months-old and three-year-old survived because they were fully vaccinated but sadly Oliana did not complete her vaccination.”
Uia added that losing her husband and child has caused great suffering to her family.
“At the moment, there is a feeling of incomplete and emptiness in my heart,” she said.
“I don’t know what to feel when my children start calling for their father because my son would always crave his father’s presence.
She added that the pain of losing her husband, who she married in 2013, is hard to bear.
“He was very hard working and also spoiled the children so much. It will be a heartbreaking Christmas but we would like to do something to remember them both.
“We acknowledge all the support from various donors such as ASA Foundation, Samoa Victim Support Group. May God bless everyone who lent a helping hand.”
The ASA Foundation Trust is a Samoan support organisation based in New Zealand.
Its chairperson, Teleiai Edwin Puni, told RNZ last week it was a tough time for Samoa.
“Samoa is a small country and we know a lot of these families and some of them are a part of our families. A lot of people overseas are hurt, are mourning and are devastated,” he said.
“ There is no certainty when this will stop – every day there is another one or two children who are dying.”
A representative of the ASA Foundation, Leapai Richard Brown, who visited the grieving mother in Lutopa, said that the assistance was offered from various donors in New Zealand which they have distributed for the past three weeks.
“The importance of our work is to offer a helping hand directly to the families who were affected or have lost loved ones to measles,” Leapai said.
“We know that the assistance will not bring the deceased back but it is just something to help ease the burden or sorrow in any way that can assist Samoan families.”