50,000 condoms to curb rising STIs in Samoa

By Cherelle Jackson

The Safe Games Campaign is now well under way, with promises by the campaign committee to distribute more than 50,000 condoms before, during and after the South Pacific Games which begin this month.

Samoa is expecting a drastic increase in population by perhaps more than 20,000 people in a period of two weeks.

No doubt the anticipation of the crowds, the parties, the VIP cocktails, networking and travelling to the sunny Samoa will be some of the reasons thousands will descend upon our shores during the games.

The actual games will just be part of a whole new sub culture developed in those two weeks.

In recent years safe sex has been at the forefront of regional health campaigns, with the prevalence of Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs) and the fear of the further spread of HIV/AIDS the campaigns have been straight to the point.

Surveys relating to STI's, safe sex and HIV/AIDS specifically, places a not so admirable picture on local knowledge of the issues.

In the Second Generation Survey by World Health Organization and Secretariat of the Pacific Community, published last year based on five Pacific island countries, Samoa is ranked lowest in "condom use amongst youth."

We also ranked the lowest in "the proportion of the population who both correctly identify ways of HIV transmission and reject major misconceptions."

In addition to that Samoa also has the lowest "proportion of the population ever tested for HIV and aware of sero-status."

"The accessibility to condoms is nonexistent in Samoa," said one visiting health worker.

Condoms are not free or accessible in Samoa however that will soon change with the Safe Game Campaign.

Safe Games Committee Secretary Neli Wightman said: "Condom use is much more likely when people can access them at no cost, and this is the intention of the Safe Games Committee. Therefore, over 50.000 condoms have been imported to Samoa to ensure there will be no shortage of condoms available to the masses."

Each athlete and official is given their own supply in their Safe Games Kits.

Condoms according to Wightman will also be available at the Safe Games booths and at a large number of bars, nightclubs, restaurants and hotels in the area.

The Safe Games Committee said they hope that this will substantially increase access to condoms and safe sex information to all those enjoying the Games festivities.

Culture

New Zealand Governor General His Excellency Anand Stayanand was honoured by a kava ceremony at the official Government malae earlier this week.

Stayanand accepted his cultural offering alongside Head of State, His Highness Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Hon.

This is the Governor Generals first visit to Samoa since taking over the role from Dame Sylvia Cartwright.

Apart from his diplomatic visits, Stayanand also visited Loto Taumafai School for Children with Disabilities who performed a cultural item and presented him with a traditional Samoan carving.

This is Hon. Stayanand's final stop of his Pacific trip which includes a trip to Tokelau.

Tourism

The multimillion dollar Taumeasina Island Resort development, bought by New Zealand developer and investor, Gordon Taylor is partly up for sale.

Trevor Stevenson, Solicitor of the development told Newsline that representatives from a Fijian group of hotels have shown interest in joint development.

"The Government is aware of this and they will be visiting in the next few weeks," Stevenson said.

The Taumeasina Island Resort has been in the development phase for almost two years.

A website www.samoaislandresort.com has been set up to sell part of the development to interested investors.

"A New Zealand based developer has completed building an island within a lagoon and is about to proceed building a holiday resort, condominiums, villas, a restaurant, reception facilities etc. There is also provision to build a 2nd restaurant, night club and conference centre," the site states.

The site indicates that the number of rooms for the hotel is "totally negotiable but cannot be less that 55."

"You may wish to build up to 250 units which should enjoy an occupancy rating percentage in the high 80s to low 90s," the site states.

The development has faced difficulties through the years according to developer Gordon Taylor in a previous interview.

Since the ground breaking ceremony for the development Mr. Taylor did not publicly express and intention to sell all or part of the island development.

Government

Samoa's donation to Samoa Red Cross Society's (SRCS) tsunami relief efforts for the Solomon Islands has yet to eventuate.

The donation of close to SAT$20,000.00 was promised to the organisation intended for the people of Solomon Islands who suffered during the tsunami early this year.

The Samoan Red Cross Society (SRCS) launched an emergency appeal back in April to assist SI.

President Lemalu Tate Simi told Newsline that he was still waiting on a bank draft almost five months into the relief efforts.

Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aiono Mose said the delay in the SRCS receiving the cheque is because Treasury processed it incorrectly.

He says that when Treasury prepared the first cheque they made it out to the "Solomon Island's" and not the Samoa Red Cross Society, which would cause problems at the bank.

Aiono said: "That's the simple explanation."

SRCS is waiting on the Government donation before delivering assistance to the Solomons.

Environment

The unpredictable prices of oil and increasing pressure on regional reserves have driven small economies such as Samoa to coconuts as an economically and ecologically sound petroleum alternative.

Better known for its healthy and tasty flesh and the base of massage oil, the coconut may just be the answer to Samoa's energy needs.

The Electric Power Corporation in the last decade has experimented on the use of coconut as an energy source and at one point one EPC vehicle was powered by coconut oil.

With more than SAT$1million of national budget spent on petroleum annually and the noted increase in use of automobiles according to the Ministry of Transport, the turn to coconut oil seems the natural step for Samoa.

Currently 50 per cent of Samoas electricity is generated through hydropower a renewable energy power source, this is a significant percentage compared to the world average of 19 per cent.

According to regional experts, if coconut oil catches on as a fuel source, it could rescue Pacific island economies that have been hard hit by plummeting prices for coconut oil, one of regions major exports.

According to Edward Langham, the newly appointed Renewable Energy Project Developer/Advisor for EPC the feasibility of using coconut oil "is quite good."

He said: "The economics of it are positive. I think the main focus is ensuring the collection of the coconuts is feasible and the numbers are right for a coconut oil to electricity plant in Savaii, it is certainly very promising."

Langham says the main benefit of using coconut for biofuel is having control over the supply and the price of local fuel source.

"At the moment the Pacific is held ransom by oil prices determined elsewhere and it will enable Samoa to produce the fuel from within your own country which reduce dependence and reduce imports. This is a big positive for energy security and can actually be cheaper than diesel fuel, if implemented correctly," Langham said.

Coconut Wireless
From the archives of the village beat, the persistent presence of thieves in the town area reminds me of one true but funny Samoan thief story which happened at the village of Lelata. This was relayed to me by the owner of the house that was burgled. According to him, the burglar broke into his house, changed into his fathers brand new shirt and shoes, picked up a TV, hailed down a cab and proceeded to carry out the microwave, DVD player, stereo and other items he could carry into the waiting vehicle. Fortunately for the home owners, the taxi driver was his cousin, who drove the happy and soon to be shocked thief straight to the Police Station. The home owner was called to the Police Station to identify his stolen possessions and press charges against the unsuccessful thief, which he did. "But a few hours after that, the thief was roaming around the market, still in my fathers shoes and shirt," the home owner said.

So as you can see, although justice does eventually prevail in Samoa, sometimes it takes a little time.

That's all from Samoa this week. Manuia le Aso

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