The Otago Times (OTD) has apologised after an "insensitive" cartoon was released by the newspaper making light of the measles crisis in Samoa.
The image, drawn by New Zealand cartoonist Garrick Tremain, shows two women exiting a travel agency store above the caption: "I asked what are the least popular spots at the moment? She said the ones people are picking up in Samoa."
The picture has been regarded as 'heartless' and 'insensitive' on social media as the measles death toll in the region climbs to 55. The vast majority of the deaths so far are those under four years old.
Following the publication of the article, responses flooded the OTD Twitter page.
"Whoever printed this for Otago Daily Times! SHAME ON YOU," one person posted.
Another user said "making light of 50 children dying is disgusting. Come on Otago Daily Times."
"A whole country's heart is breaking and the imbeciles at Otago Daily Times @odtnews
There is special place in hell where morons like the cartoonist & the editor of this joke of a newspaper, go to burn," commented another person.
Former All Black's star Sonny Bill Williams also responded to the cartoon.
"Racism has no heart. Prayers for our children" posted the player.
In addition to the All Blacks star, Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon commented on the publication.
"This cartoon is extremely appalling and distasteful. It shows very poor judgement by the cartoonist and those involved in publishing it," Foon posted on Facebook.
The ODT has since issued an apology.
"Today the Otago Daily Times published a cartoon making reference to the measles crisis in Samoa.
"The content and timing of the cartoon was insensitive and we apologise for publishing it," it said on Twitter.
But the public has not been forgiving.
"Don’t bother coming out with an apology. How many eyes this piece must’ve passed and they all deemed it acceptable to publish. You knew exactly what you were publishing," said one Twitter user in response.
This is not the first time cartoonist Garrick Tremain has gained attention for drawing a controversial cartoon.
He responded to criticism in 2013, writing: "There have been other hostile reaction to cartoons over the years, most often from special interest groups, race relations conciliators and other martyrs to political correctness."
The Otago Daily Times has been contacted for comment.