Decorated with butterflies, infant-sized coffins sent to measles-ravaged Samoa
Volunteers in the New Zealand city of Rotorua are preparing two dozen white-lined coffins to be transported to Samoa at the end of the week as the measles-ravaged Pacific island nation languishes under a growing death toll that has now hit 70.
The smallest of the coffins, designed for the bodies of babies, are decorated with felt butterflies, daisies, stars and hearts. Volunteers have placed a teddy bear in each of the infant-sized caskets.
“It’s not easy. No-one is prepared to lose that many children,” said Tagaloa Tusani, a New Zealand-based volunteer who is organizing the coffin transport.
“No funeral home is prepared for that.”
The highly infectious disease has attacked Samoa’s most vulnerable, with 61 out of the 70 casualties aged four and under, the government said on Monday.
After causing devastation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine, among others, measles cases started appearing en masse earlier this year in the New Zealand city of Auckland, a hub for travel to and from small Pacific islands.
The virus then took hold in Samoa which had the lowest vaccination rates in the region.