National | Disease

Samoa influenza 100 years on

Renee Kahukura-Iosefa reporting from Samoa

The influenza epidemic killed over 22% of Samoa population in 1918, a disease that was introduced to Samoa by sick passengers onboard the Talune ship from New Zealand.

For the first time, families reflect on the past that has never been spoken about until today.

Now they are more determined to ensure the next generation learn and understand the devastation NZ knowingly caused in Samoa 100 years ago.

The disease killed over 8,000 people at the time.

The NZ High Commissioner to Samoa, Nick Hurley says, “One hundred years ago is a defining moment to talk publicly about what happened, to acknowledge the faults the mistakes that NZ made at the time."

The Talune ship from New Zealand carried with it a number of people infected by influenza and rather than simply quarantine the ship, Colonel Robert Logan allowed them to come on shore.

Within about a month to six weeks, 20-25% of the population died as a result.

During this time, New Zealand under the British government had taken control of Samoa.

For the first time, the NZ Government has a made commitment to provide $2 million, funding that will be used to refurbish the nurses training centre in Samoa.

NZ High Commissioner to Samoa Nick Hurley announced that they will be working with the Government of Samoa and the village of Vaimoso to upgrade the memorial mass grave site where thousands of victims to influenza were buried.