Toddler's measles death in Samoa: 'Unfortunately the Lord called him'

The family of a young boy who died from measles is pleading with others to immunise before it is too late.

It comes as the Samoan government announces a two-day government shut down on Thursday and Friday this week - with most government workers and resources put into an ongoing mass immunisation programme.

At least 53 people have died due to measles in the country since the outbreak began, most of them children.

One of the deceased is 18-month-old Sione. Speaking to RNZ through a translator at the boy's freshly laid grave, his mother Fala'i and father Lupino say he was a "special kid".

"He was a very active kid, he engaged with the neighbours ... he had a healthy appetite," Lupino says.

"Unfortunately the lord called him, it was his time."

Sione fell sick two Thursdays ago and died last Tuesday. He had not been immunised.

"I encourage the parents to get their kids immunised, get yourselves immunised as well," Lupino says.

"I'm very sad about my son, I feel very lost."

As the interview took place, supplies were being unloaded by Samoa Victim Support Group led by Lina Chang and their village representative. The SCSG team prayed and sang together, and carried large bags of clothes and food into the fale.

Despite village life being so close and connected, grief can be isolating.

For Lina, the food and clothes are important, but even more important is giving people someone to talk to.

"We want to see how the parents are doing," Lina says.

"If they need counselling we will provide for the counselling, what ever they need.

"We laugh with them, we smile with them, we cry with them and we grieve with them - these people will always be family."

To double the heartbreak, Fala'i's cousin, Ana Maiava died from cancer on Friday. She was 38.

When RNZ visited, her grave was being dug and the wall around it constructed.

Now, this family are having to pick up the pieces, while The Samoan Victim Group get ready for their next visit.

There seems to be far too many of those in Samoa right now.