Before the measles outbreak, Vasa Malolo Gataifale of Magiagi village was cruising along in his taxi and living comfortable with his family from daily earnings.
The measles epidemic struck and business started to slow down as the traveling public dwindled off slowly.
Gataifale is in a business arrangement where he has a set target to meet at the end of the week to give the owner, whatever is left over goes into his pocket.
“Before the outbreak it was comfortable, family expenses were met, the needs of the children before and after school were normal, earnings from the taxi was sufficient,” Gataifale recollect.
His comfort zone, however, started to stir when the measles virus broke out as earnings from the taxi slipped.
Concern for the health of the children started to creep in not to mention personal safety from being exposed to the general travelling public.
“Even by the time the epidemic started to pick up the phone at our taxi stand was taking a while to ring and was affecting our earnings for the day.
“ From the time when schools closed and the movement of the public were being restricted, it really started to be felt as the travelling public slowed down noticeably.”
Gataifale found that he was struggling to meet his weekly payments to the owner of the taxi with something left over for himself and his family.
He was at the point where he was able to earn just enough for the owner and nothing for him.
“Before the measles, it was not a difficult task to raise $300 tala a week for the owner but lately it is a hard struggle.
“ Sometimes we can’t even collect enough for the week to cover the owners cut.
“Lately the better option for us is to return the owners taxi, while you as the driver would do well to go home and make yourself useful doing something else.”
The measles epidemic poses the health risk factor that Gataifale worry about as the father of the family and also the breadwinner.
He worried that a sick father is going to make it difficult to put food on the table for the family.
His only option is to pray for the Lord’s protection for his health and for the measles to clear out so the good days can return again.
“You hardly find anyone waving you down from the side of the road lately, most of the time we’re sitting around the taxi stands waiting for the phone to ring.
“Most of the fares calling for taxi are the sick and I don’t wear a mask because it makes breathing difficult but I'm inside my air condition car.
“ In my own mind I feel hopeful that the cool air will make it harder for the measles virus to move around as it would in warm air.”
Gataifale also believed that since the epidemic, his family is noticing that they are no longer doing the washing on his clothes and he is no longer using the home bathroom to shower.
“ I drag the water hose away from the house and fill up the plastic barrel to bath from and also do my washing.
‘The more measles patients I drive in the car the more I use sanitizer on my body before I head straight home for a shower.”
Gataifale firmly believes one of the reasons the measles is spreading so quickly is adult return home and start playing with the children when they should first be heading to the shower and then touch the children.
He has been a taxi driver since 2003 and has survived cyclones and other natural disasters but people were still travelling until now with the measles epidemic.
Another taxi driver, Potea Muagutu, agreed business is slow and while he still has people make use of his services but it is not the same.
“Most of the fares I have are headed for the hospital at Moto’otua but then again there travelling public has dropped.
“I guess the advantage I have is that it’s just myself and my wife, my children have all grown.
“ I haven’t been driving taxis very long and I was looking forward to the holiday season to make some money but it doesn’t look very likely with our health problems.”
There are currently more than 200 taxi cars that male up the total fleet serving the country.