Common Diseases in SamoaSamoa is a great vacation destination. There are museums, places to go surfing and beaches to relax on. However, the tropical weather and abundance of water gives rise to many infectious diseases. Below is a guide to the most common diseases in Samoa.

Zika Virus
Due to a number of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, the virus has become one of the most common diseases in Samoa. Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking precautionary measures. The virus is spread via mosquito bites and sexual contact with an infected person. Thus, the CDC advises travelers and locals to avoid bug bites and use condoms whenever possible. This is even more important for pregnant women, as they are at risk of passing the virus onto their offspring.

Also, it is possible to contract the virus and not even know it. It is typical for people to not experience anything beyond a mild sickness (if they get sick at all) or show distinct symptoms. At the time of writing, there are no cures, medication or vaccines for the Zika virus.

Hepatitis A
Spread through contact with the hands of an infected person and contaminated water and food, people are at risk of catching hepatitis A in Samoa. If someone does develop symptoms, they likely won’t appear until the virus has been in their system for a couple of weeks. The symptoms include mild fever, joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, abdominal/liver pain or discomfort, jaundice, clay-colored bowel movements and dark urine.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine that people can ask their doctors/nurses for. This, paired with eating foods prepared correctly and safely, drinking clean (preferably carbonated) water, maintaining personal hygiene and avoiding bushmeat, should prevent the contraction hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B can be found all over the world, but it is particularly prevalent in Samoa. It is so common that, in 2015, the Samoan Cabinet authorized a doctor to participate in a New Zealand meeting discussing hepatitis B treatment and possible drug donation to Samoans. Hepatitis B can spread via unprotected sex, contact with infected blood, unscreened blood transfusions or during childbirth. Even infected items such as razor blades, needles and unclean medical or dental equipment can spread the virus.

According to IAMAT, a nonprofit focused on giving travelers up-to-date health information, hepatitis B is also asymptomatic for many of those who have it. It typically takes anywhere from one to six months after exposure to experience illness and shares many of its symptoms with hepatitis A. Untreated hepatitis B “can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and even death.”

A series of vaccinations are available for Hep B. IAMAT goes on to recommend other preventative measures such as practicing safe sex; avoiding injuries during physical activities; getting medical and dental care done at a trustworthy institution; not sharing needles or razors and avoid getting any new tattoos or piercings.

Typhoid, like hepatitis A, can spread through contaminated food and water. In addition to common symptoms such as weakness and stomach pains, some can experience constipation and a rash.

A vaccine in the form of a shot or pills is available. The prevention methods are the same as hepatitis A. Additionally, close contact (such as sharing food/utensils/cups/kisses/hugs) with infected individuals should also be avoided.

While the most common diseases in Samoa may not all be life-threatening initially, it is best to err on the side of caution and heed the preventative measures.

Jada Haynes

Photo: Flickr

Following destructive cyclones in 1990 and 1991, much of Samoa’s agriculture was destroyed. This has caused major setbacks for food production. To alleviate the huge deficit in food resources, the country sought out help from donor nations as well as the World Food Programme. Despite the help from donor nations and relief programs, problems still remain with hunger in Samoa today.

In an address in 1996 by the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, it was stated that the 1993 food production recovery program was making headway until a fungal disease wreaked havoc on the crops. With natural disasters and failed production recovery programs not making any progress, Malielegaoi and the government of Samoa committed to the World Food Summit Plan of Action in hopes of combatting hunger in Samoa and rebuilding the food recovery program.

Years later, hunger in Samoa is still a crisis. In 2006, the depth of hunger index–which measures the number of people who fall short of minimum food needs–was reported at 210, and, by 2008, the depth of hunger had decreased to 150, a significant reduction. In addition, the depth of the food deficit was at 22 kilocalories per person per day, while the percent of malnutrition prevalence in children under 5 was at 1.7%. The number of undernourished people in Samoa was reported at 100,000 in 2008, an estimated 5% of the population.

Despite the lack of progress, in 2013, the Samoan government and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced that Samoa was among 40 countries to have cut hunger in half. This success was one of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals set by the U.N. in 2000 to be achieved by 2015.

In response to Samoa’s hard work, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of Samoa Hon. LeMamea Ropati Mualia stated that “Samoa has put into place decisive policies and actions to accelerate hunger reduction,” and this is “a good signal for our beloved country’s economic growth and sustainability.”

Although there is no current data on unemployment rates and the population living below the poverty line, and with the GDP increase of $.031 billion from 2015 to 2016, which ranked Samoa 203rd in the world, it can be inferred that there has been a slow but steady decrease in hunger in Samoa.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

As of October 2015, 68 percent of all households in Samoa are raising various forms of livestock. There are currently 513,000 chickens and 168,500 pigs being raised. The country is dominated by agriculture, and instances of extreme poverty are very low, but 26.9 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

For the poor of the country, poverty in Samoa contributes to the disparity in levels of higher education for females. Seventy percent of females that reside in households at the bottom half of income earning families usually only have a primary school education.

While food is affordable, other essentials take up a lot of the budget for most Samoan households. The World Bank is committed to supplying Samoa with increased funding, which is appropriate considering 29.4 percent of the population age 15 and above are employed.

Roads that are necessary for trade would be rebuilt, and the reinvigoration of the Samoan agricultural sector would be a part of the initiative. Making sure the country is able to meet its growth goals as well as enable an increased partnership with the World Bank would help alleviate factors of poverty in Samoa.

Many households only engage in agriculture as a secondary activity. Those are called minor agricultural projects and are a way of subsistence for people experiencing poverty in Samoa.

Upgrading cattle farms in order to strengthen the agricultural sector is one strategy the government is using besides the increase of crop production. Along with road construction to improve trade, Samoa has positive plans for the future. However, the high cost of non-food items will continue to be a burden on earnings making poverty in Samoa more apparent.

Nick Katsos

Photo: Flickr

Education in Samoa
While the Samoan education system has achieved much over the years, the oceanic nation still has room to grow, especially in terms of dropout and retention rates. Here are six facts about education in Samoa.

  1. The Education Sector of Samoa serves a population of approximately 193,000 on a land area of 2,820 square kilometers, comprising the two main islands of Upolu and Savai’i and eight small islands. Samoa is a lower-middle-income country with a GDP of nearly $761 million in 2015, with a life expectancy of 73.4 years and a Gender Development Index (GDI) of 0.956 (in comparison, the U.S. has a GDI of 0.995).
  2. According to a 2012 UNESCO report, 99 percent of adult Samoans are literate, compared to the Pacific average of 71 percent and the global average of 84 percent.
  3. Early childhood education in Samoa is provided mainly by non-governmental organizations. The participation rate remains low, with the actual number assumed to be higher due to community‐run, unregistered pre‐schools. Little is known about how these informal early childhood educations perform or how they compare to federally funded programs.
  4. Primary school enrollment rates are high, and most children go on to complete the full cycle of eight years of primary education. Secondary school participation rates have room for improvement, with 50.6 percent of boys and 69.5 percent of girls of secondary school age attending secondary school. Of those attending secondary school, however, graduation rates were above 90 percent in May 2016.
  5. Recent Samoan national reports highlight education as a critical issue in the perpetuation of rural poverty. The 2013 Samoa Hardship and Poverty Report described a strong correlation between poverty, vulnerability status and the level of education of Samoan citizens. The analysis found that males with no tertiary education in urban areas are more likely to be vulnerable to poverty than other demographics. While only 12 percent of Samoans are formally employed, and most live off of informal wages, low-paid employment opportunities in both formal and informal sectors, which do not require any training beyond a secondary education, tend to be male-dominated and concentrated in urban areas.
  6. Informal educational programs play an important role in the delivery of basic education. These include ‘ā’oga faifeau,’ or religious programs, that supplement regular education and nongovernment organizations that provide second-chance educational programs for dropouts. Samoa’s Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture has recently begun incorporating practical subjects and vocational education and training programs to meet the learning needs of both students and the economy.

Compared to the Pacific community and even a majority of the world population, Samoan schools demonstrate characteristics of effective education programs. However, increased emphasis on secondary school retention and the role of informal and vocational education could possibly improve the quality and effectiveness of education in Samoa.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr