hunger in fijiFiji, a country bordering both Tonga and Futana, has faced increased obstacles with food security. It is estimated that amongst the population of 926,276 citizens, over 250,000 individuals are battling poverty and hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in Fiji.

Problem in Numbers

It is estimated that over 35% of Fiji’s population is below the national poverty line. With the income of households drastically declining, thousands of families do not have the proper resources to thrive.

Fiji children are also heavily impacted, further contributing to the increased rate of hunger in Fiji. It has been recently estimated that over 40% of Fiji’s children are malnourished. A majority of children in Fiji suffer from “protein-energy malnutrition”, meaning that they do not consume enough vital and nutritious foods for their bodies.

The Causes

The lack of food distribution in Fiji points towards a variety of factors. A primary cause is due to Fiji’s political instability and corruption. Additionally, with tourism making up a majority of Fiji’s GDP, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to decreased budgets and widespread unemployment.

Climate change has also affected hunger in Fiji. Cyclones have led to massive agricultural losses, resulting in widespread losses of income and the destruction of food that would be derived from the agricultural crops.

Another cause contributing to the hunger in Fiji is the increased dropout rates among children. With the majority of Fiji’s population battling poverty, children are often instructed to leave school in search of work. From grueling street work to harsh agricultural labor, children earn very little over the years.

In 2016 it was estimated that over 55% of children at primary school age were not attending school. This low schooling rate leaves many children uneducated, unskilled and closed off to stable job opportunities which in turn leaves them unable to afford basic necessities as adults.

The Road to Change

However, despite the increased rates of hunger among the Fiji population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is Moms Against Hunger, which has dedicated itself to providing food for the individuals battling poverty. Moms Against Hunger has recruited numerous volunteers and has delivered over 250,000 food packages to families in need. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of families received enough food to last several months.

Another impactful organization is HELP International, which looks to empower and educate individuals in need. HELP International focused its efforts in the nutrition sector, teaching individuals nutritional guidelines, financial literacy and the importance of schooling. Through these efforts, thousands of families can learn to manage a budget, eat well and pursue higher education.

Additionally, Aggie Global seeks to educate farmers on sustainable practices. Under a team of various volunteers, Aggie Global hosted workshops to teach farmers about crop control, production tricks and sustainable solutions. After conducting these workshops, hundreds of farmers were able to boost production, increasing the amount of food distributed to the public.

The Future

Despite organizations looking to aid those in need, Fiji continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. The efforts from nonprofit organizations provide short-term relief but Fiji is in great need of government assistance to see great and lasting change.

For Fiji to see an immense reduction in its hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to provide for families. In addition, the Fiji government must prioritize the youth and support and encourage the pursuit of higher education. With increased positive influence and support from Fiji’s government, poverty-stricken families all over Fiji would benefit, lowering the overall hunger rate.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: Flickr

period poverty
Period poverty is an umbrella term that refers to the inaccessibility of feminine hygiene products, education, washing facilities and waste management, especially for menstruators with low incomes. Menstruators who lack the education or access to resources for safe period management often resort to risky methods such as using rags and clothing, which can lead to bacterial infections that can cause further physical health risks.

Today, there are over 800 million women and girls that have periods every day, yet they still face difficulties to properly manage their menstruation. According to UNICEF, 2.3 billion people across the globe live without basic sanitation services in developing countries. Meanwhile, 73% of people lack access to proper handwashing facilities at home.

COVID-19 affects menstrual health and hygiene by exacerbating pre-existing inequalities regarding period poverty worldwide.

COVID-19 and Period Poverty

As stated by Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International U.K., “the virus is making the situation worse. We already know that the coronavirus outbreak is having a devastating impact on family finances all over the world, but now we see that girls and women are also facing widespread shortages and price hikes on period products, with the result that many are being forced to make do with whatever they can find to manage their period.”

The disruption of global supply chains and ceased trading of smaller-scale private sector enterprises has led to product shortages. This shortage is the primary issue affecting women’s access to safe sanitary products. The price of sanitary products has also increased during the pandemic. It is extremely hard for families to afford these products since the pandemic has also affected household incomes.

“As most shops have run out, I sometimes have to substitute in different ways instead,” said a teenage girl from the Solomon Islands.

“Prices went up as soon as there was a confirmed case of COVID19 in Fiji. Sometimes I have to forgo buying hygiene products as money will have to be used on food and bills,” said a young woman in Fiji.

Stigmatization of Menstruation

Most of the world stigmatizes menstruation. Social stigmas and taboos about menstruation is another key factor that prevents women and girls from properly managing their periods. In Nepal, people perceive menstruating women as impure. Their community expels them to huts for the duration of their cycles. In Uganda, non-governmental agency WoMena showed that many girls skip school when they are on their periods. The primary reason: to avoid teasing from classmates.

Since the rise of COVID-19, some people have associated menstruation as a sign of illness. Although having periods is normal and healthy, there are myths stating that menstruation is a symptom of the coronavirus and that menstruators have a higher chance of infecting others. These myths are badly affecting period poverty by increasing the stigma of menstruation. The negative perceptions of menstruation, such that it is a symptom of an illness and that it should be something to hide from others, should change in order to stop period poverty.

A young woman from the Solomon Islands said “Sometimes [I feel shame]. Especially when I am not able to clean myself during water cuts. I feel embarrassed to walk around my family.”

Organizations Making a Difference

I Support The Girls is an organization that collects and distributes bras and menstruation products to people who need them around the globe. The organization mentioned that it has seen a 35% increase in requests for menstrual products, bras and underwear since the outbreak of the virus. In response, the organization collected and distributed over 2,000,000 products, partnered up with businesses to distribute surplus inventory, and more.

Plan International U.K. is another organization that fights period poverty; it distributes menstrual hygiene kits to support women and girls disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Alison Choi
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger in FijiFiji is an upper-middle-income country located in the Pacific Islands. In Fiji, the agricultural sector has been steadily declining over the last several decades, resulting in hunger concerns. Here is everything you need to know about hunger in Fiji.

Background of Hunger in Fiji

Traditionally, countries struggling with hunger are thought to be plagued with food insecurity and starvation. This is not the case in Fiji, where food availability is adequate — especially in comparison with other Pacific Islands. Fijians even have above-average access to energy-dense foods. Rather than food security, concerns surrounding hunger in Fiji stem from the double burden of over-nutrition and under-nutrition, caused by obesity and deficiencies in micronutrients. Trade policies, poverty and climate change are further causes of hunger in Fiji.

Main Causes of Hunger in Fiji

  1. Trade Policy: Fiji’s poor nutrition largely stems from increased dependence on cheap imported food, resulting in a decreased intake of traditional Fijian food. This decline in demand has resulted in traditional food being grown for export, thus increasing domestic prices. Consequently, families above the poverty line spend 18% of their income on food, and families below the poverty line spend 29% of their income on food.
  2. Poverty: Although extreme poverty is uncommon in Fiji, according to the World Bank, 35.2% of Fijians live in poverty. Furthermore, the per capita purchasing power parity in Fiji is significantly below the global average. Thus, not only do Fijians generally struggle with poverty, but food is also disproportionately expensive.
  3. Climate Change: Fiji is extremely vulnerable to climate change, experiencing frequent storms, cyclones, floods and droughts — all of which can be detrimental to the agricultural sector. Additionally, 25,700 people in Fiji are annually pushed into poverty as a result of climate change, further exacerbating the problem of poverty leading to hunger.

Traditional Fijian Diet

Traditionally, Fijians consumed a diet of fish, seafood, root crops, fruit, wild plants and legumes. In recent years, this traditional diet has been abandoned. In 2014, 50% of the population ate rice daily, 43% ate roti daily and 15% ate instant noodles daily. These unhealthy choices became popular while fruit and vegetable consumption declined, with only 15% of adults getting the recommended five servings daily.

Health Consequences

The major health consequences that arise from hunger in Fiji stem from obesity. One-third of adult Fijians are obese, and the rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as type-2 diabetes is correspondingly high. Obesity increases the risk of NCDs, thus increasing the risk of mortality. Consequently:

In comparison to its Pacific Island neighbors, Fiji possesses great food security. However, Fiji’s problems with poverty, trade policy and climate change perpetuate hunger. For Fijians to be able to afford and consume healthy foods once again, Fiji will need to invest in climate action, limit trade tariffs and promote native crops.

Lily Jones
Photo: Flickr

barter for better fiji
On the beautiful island of Fiji, a staggering 40% of the country’s GDP comes from the tourism industry. Therefore, when COVID-19 hit the island (and the rest of the world), many people found themselves out of a job. However, the local population found a solution. In the middle of a pandemic, Marlene Dutta set up a Facebook page called Barter for Better Fiji to allow for Fijians to procure essential items without causing undue financial stress.

While bartering has always been a part of Fiji’s economy, this Facebook page is notable for its scope. The page has already amassed over 180,000 members as of August 2020. Considering the island has a total population of 900,000 people, that means this 180,000 figure represents 20% of the country’s entire population engaged in this bartering process.

Poverty in Fiji

Bartering is becoming more prevalent in Fiji due to the increase in unemployment as a result of the new coronavirus. Almost 5% of the country’s population has lost their job due to the lack of tourism and that is in addition to 28.1% of the country living below the national poverty line. Fijians also suffer from malnourishment and at one point in the early 2000s, 40% of children suffered from childhood hunger.

Much of the poverty in Fiji can be attributed to the political instability in the country, but not all of it. The military coup in 1987 was the start of these conflicts and the turmoil has only increased Fiji’s poverty level. However, politics are not completely to blame because there is also drastic housing inequality; an estimated 140,000 people live in “substandard housing conditions.” All of these factors have contributed to Fiji’s current poverty levels and the pandemic has only made matters worse.

Bartering in Fiji

The Barter for Better Fiji Facebook page has many purposes. It helps the people in Fiji deliver essential resources to each other when finances are scarce. It is a form of mutual aid, which is essentially community members helping each other for a mutual benefit. Interestingly, this type of aid has come into the mainstream across the world, during the pandemic. Most importantly, for some people — this aid can be life-saving.

Fijians barter essential resources as well as everyday goods and services. People trade fresh produce for cleaning services or animals for transportation. Some people started bartering for fun and now help their friends and neighbors by donating items for bartering. As a whole, the bartering economy has allowed Fijians to take care of one another and provide for themselves and their families during a pandemic.

Uniting a Community

The best part about the Facebook group is how it has engaged the community. The founder of the group has been amazed at the good faith and compassion she has seen among the people of Fiji. She posits that it promotes an economy of kindness — one where people take a moment to help out their neighbors, even if they have never before spoken. As Fiji has shown, when life is centered around a caring community, there is a mutual benefit that permeates society.

– Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Kava Cultivation in Fiji
In the Pacific island nation of Fiji, 44.3% of its approximate 900,000 residents live in rural areas, where access to opportunity is struggling to keep up with economic growth. According to government metrics, every third Fijian is poor. However, recent developments in kava cultivation are helping villagers escape poverty. Kava, locally known as yaqona, is an indigenous crop that people have customarily used to make a ceremonial beverage for traditional gatherings and celebrations. It contains chemicals called kavalactones, which create feelings of calmness and euphoria in those drinking it. In recent years, these qualities have encouraged the drink’s recreational consumption both in Fiji and abroad. Given the drink’s recent boost in demand, kava cultivation in Fiji has come to provide financial stability for thousands of workers within the industry.

Historical Background

Currently, more than 21,000 Fijian farmers produce at least 4,000 tons of kava per year. For some rural communities, kava cultivation is an indispensable source of income. On the island of Kadavu, for example, four out of five households harvest or farm kava. In that area alone, as many as 8,000 inhabitants rely on kava production to feed their families. Their trust has been paying off thus far: in 2016, Cyclone Winston ravaged much of the country’s infrastructure and destroyed multiple kava plantations, radically decreasing its market supply. However, in the cataclysm’s aftermath, kava prices registered steep growth, convincing many farmers that kava cultivation was more profitable than Fiji’s other major agricultural export – sugar.

Economic Successes

The kava industry generated an equivalent of $151 million in 2017, and domestic sales were responsible for the overwhelming majority of kava consumption. Besides serving kava beverages in bars, the private sector is pioneering kava anti-anxiety medicines and kava nurseries, where farmers can buy seeds to start their own plantations. These initiatives are directly involving rural populations in their business operations. For instance, South Pacific Elixirs, a company maintaining kava quality, has contracted 70 farmers on the island of Ovalau. In fact, 80% of the kava found in Fiji’s urban areas where bars, pharmaceutical firms and exporters naturally operate originates on such remote islands as the aforementioned Kadavu and Ovalau. Such connections between rural communities and domestic distributors are helpful since they enable farmers to access the market.

Although export only represented 8% of the kava revenue, its volume increased by 126% and its value saw an upsurge of 98% between 2013 and 2017. Fiji exports to Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and the United States, marketing the crop as much to the Fijian diaspora as to foreign consumers. One may find kava in American pharmacies, department stores and cafes. Its consumption is widespread in San Diego, Austin, Texas and particularly in Southeast FloridaSt. Petersburg, Florida alone boasts eight kava bars. The drink from this plant appeals to local consumers as an alternative to alcohol allowing them to relax without the harmful effects of hangovers.

As kava farming does not presuppose extensive education, it attracts not only the established farmers but also the unemployed rural youths. In 2019, the national youth unemployment rate stood at almost 15%, and eradicating rural poverty cannot occur without addressing this high rate of joblessness. Stories of farmers investing their earnings in housing and critical infrastructures, like solar lights and water tanks, have underscored kava’s role in combating rural poverty in Fiji. Income from kava has also empowered some to operate local grocery stores and send their children to school. Statistically, one hectare of kava generates a gross income of more than $94,000 within a five-year cultivation period.

Is Kava Cultivation Sustainable?

Despite its economic benefits, kava cultivation in Fiji has encountered skepticism. Farmers will have to respond to the rising demand, which has the potential to pose serious challenges. Given that kava takes between two and three years to mature, early harvesting can lead to crop failure and wasted resources. Furthermore, extensive production risks exhausting fertile volcanic lands to the long-term detriment of Fiji’s rural communities. The crop’s production is also vulnerable to natural catastrophes that may hamper commercial links between suppliers and distributors.

However, Fijian authorities are working to ensure that kava cultivation is sustainable. The Yaqona Taskforce hosts training events for village farmers, in which government officials not only teach superior farming and storage techniques but also discuss marketing opportunities. The Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus (PHAMA+) Program, supported by New Zealand and Australia, is complementing these initiatives by conducting surveys across Fiji to monitor genetic variation within kava crops as well as the production methods used in different villages. In addition to verifying that the plants are healthy, PHAMA+ ensures that farmers are maximizing yields and selling value-added goods from processed kava rather than its roots. By helping farmers meet high standards, PHAMA+ contributes to the expansion of the industry’s export which has the potential to generate an extra $2.5 million for Fiji’s kava sector this year alone.

Kava cultivation in Fiji is eradicating rural poverty by integrating rural farmers into the economy and establishing ties between villages, pharmaceutical companies and recreational industries throughout the nation. With state and external backing, the kava industry has the power to precipitate poverty reduction in rural Fiji.

– Dan Mikhaylov
Photo: Flickr

Sisters Tackle Period Poverty in FijiTwo teenage sisters are working to tackle period poverty in Fiji. AnnMary and Faith Raduva, 16- and 13-year-old sisters, launched the Lagilagi Relief Campaign to help people who are unable to afford sanitary pads and tampons. In the aftermath of the recent Cyclone Harold and the COVID-19 pandemic, the two sisters noticed a shortage of sanitary pads had resulted in a spike in prices. The sisters started their campaign so that everyone who needed period products would be able to get them, regardless of their financial struggles.

The Current State of Period Poverty in Fiji

Though Fiji has experienced fewer than 50 cases of COVID-19, the global pandemic has impacted Fiji’s tourism industry, in which approximately 17% of native Fijians work. Since the pandemic, imports to the island nation have decreased, and Fijian women report that the cost of pads has gone up FJD $3, or 1.39 USD. This makes them more difficult to purchase, especially on a minimum wage salary.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only disaster Fijians have faced in 2020. In April, Cyclone Harold ravaged Fiji as a category four tropical storm. The cyclone caused major flooding and destroyed homes, schools and farms on multiple Fijian islands, including Viti Levu, the largest island of Fiji.

AnnMary Raduva said to Radio New Zealand that, for people who are currently out of work, free period products mean they can save those valuable dollars to purchase other necessities for their families. The Raduva sisters told the station that no one should have to choose between food for their loved ones or menstrual products.

How the Lagilagi Relief Campaign Is Helping

Since the cyclone, the Raduva sisters have put together over 300 of their “dignity kits,” each containing two packages of menstrual products, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a bar of soap. When they began, the sisters used solely their own time and money to compile the dignity kits, but they have since received donations from supporters and loved ones to help with their campaign.

The sisters also caught the attention of Asaleo Care Fiji, an Australian-based hygiene company that produces Libra-brand pads and tampons. The company donated over one thousand menstrual products to the Lagilagi Relief Campaign. Thanks to generous donations like these, the Lagilagi Relief Campaign will produce an additional 600 dignity kits for people struggling with period poverty in Fiji.

The Next Steps to End Period Poverty in Fiji

Though the Lagilagi Relief Campaign has helped hundreds, AnnMary Raduva is still advocating for systematic change to get to the root of period poverty in Fiji. She wrote in an opinion piece in the Fiji Sun, “Period poverty is widespread… and the taboo nature of menstruation prevents women and girls from talking about the problem.” Raduva praised New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for making menstrual pads free for all school-aged girls, and she encouraged Fiji and other countries to follow New Zealand’s lead.

In an interview with RNZ Pacific, Raduva stated that the Lagilagi Relief Campaign would continue to fight period poverty in Fiji. One way they hope to improve their dignity kits is by sewing washable pads to eliminate the need for disposable pads. Additionally, the sisters are taking their campaign to the government, asking Fijian leaders to invest in free sanitary care products for those who can’t afford them. This is in the hopes that period poverty in Fiji will no longer stand in the way of girls’ education and women’s rights.

– Jackie McMahon
Photo: Pixabay

Eating Disorders' Global SpreadEating disorders are often presented as a western-world problem. Portrayals of eating disorders (EDs) to the general public suggest white, middle to upper-class females are the ones mostly affected. However, ED statistics demonstrate that all races, genders and ethnic groups are susceptible. As westernization continues, eating disorders’ global spread ignites.

Eating disorders cause approximately one death every 62 minutes. Medical professionals agree this number is likely higher because many ED cases are overlooked and not recorded as the cause of death. Out of all mental illnesses, “eating disorders have the highest mortality rate.” In developing countries where mental health resources are scarce, untreated people live dangerously exposed.

Increased Risk in Developing Countries

The long term health consequences associated with EDs are brutal. Typically, in countries where psychiatric help is unavailable, general healthcare services are lacking for those below the poverty line. Furthermore, in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), mental illness is a serious taboo. Although sterilization is no longer a treatment for people experiencing mental health problems, there are still a lot of stigmas associated with them. They often lead to discrimination and prevent people from seeking help when needed. In these countries, psychiatric professionals able to help are nearly impossible to find.

In circumstances where someone living with an ED is not able to access medical assistance, the lack of access to treatment has persistent ramifications on a person’s body, such as experiencing pain caused by blocked intestines, muscle deterioration, cardiac pain, tooth decay or swollen jaw.

People living long-term with an ED have higher mortality rates. Living with an ED in a developing country is often a death sentence. Causes of death can include stomach ruptures, esophagus tears, kidney failure and cardiac arrest. To see reduced ED fatality rates, countries need psychiatric and medical resources. The number of countries that cannot provide these services advances the global spread of eating disorders.

Why Eating Disorders Occur in Impoverished Countries

The expansion and acceptance of Western culture are largely responsible for increasing ED cases around the world. Multiple studies evaluated the extent to which Westernization affects the elevated rate of eating disorder populations.

On the islands of Fiji, researchers conducted an observational study of EDs. The results of the study showed the impact of Western media. In the past, Fijians valued heavier body types as the image of beauty. When TV became commonly available in Fijian society during the late 1900s, ED rates were less than 1%. Three years later, a survey found 15% of teenage girls in Fiji vomited to keep their weight down.

An article published by the University of Columbia in the Journal of Eating Disorders analyzed Asia’s reaction to Westernization. The findings disprove the notion that eating disorders occur only in Western cultures. The article concludes by expanding the concept to all developing countries. These results strongly suggest that “eating disorders are not culture-bound or culture-specific, but rather culture-reactive.”

Westernization influences nearly every country in the world. Urbanization, population growth and newly introduced media further perpetuate eating disorders’ global spread. The most vulnerable countries are those that have little protection against virtually any form of addiction.

Outreach Combating Eating Disorders’ Global Spread

Eating disorder communities and organizations reach beyond their home countries. Outreach projects, such as international conferences, online training and collaboration between countries’ healthcare services, help protect people who are living with an ED and deprived of treatment. 

Originally the national charity Beat was solely based in the U.K. Now, Beat partners with international efforts in providing ED relief. The charity’s most well-known contribution is its international helpline service. Beat responded quickly to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, seeing helpline calls escalate by 30%. In response, Beat offers an online training course to recruit more volunteers.

The International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals Foundation (IAEDP Foundation) plays a role in halting eating disorders’ global spread. The IAEDP Foundation provides high-quality ED education to international multidisciplinary groups. Core courses and certifications are available in a home study format. The goal is to improve ED knowledge amongst medical professionals so people living with EDs have more opportunities for support. 

The Austrian Society on Eating Disorders (ASED) dedicates itself to establishing a network of occupational groups with ED experience. As an international network, ASED creates guidelines catered specifically to each country’s culture. ASED encourages countries to begin scientific research in ED detection, treatment and prevention. By fostering international co-operation and education, ASED hopes to expand ED resources.

Hope for the Future

Eating disorders are complex and threatening illnesses. In the Western world, health checkups and residential treatment options, in addition to emotional and nutritional therapy, encourage recovery. However, even with these resources, ED recovery can take years; if unsuccessful, EDs may result in death. For those living in highly impoverished countries, years easily turn into lifetime struggles with EDs that could end one’s life abruptly. Luckily, outreach programs enhance efforts to bring awareness and ultimately decrease ED casualty rates. Without these promising efforts, eating disorders’ global spread would continue to permeate communities around the world.

Grace Elise Van Valkenburg

Photo: U.N. 

 

Five Facts about Healthcare in FijiFiji is a country in the South Pacific comprised of 300 islands. It is known for its rugged landscapes and palm-lined beaches. As a developing country, it is still important to look at the health aspects of the country, especially on how healthcare is being developed and making a sustainable impact. This article will give five facts about Healthcare in Fiji.

5 Facts about Healthcare in Fiji

  1. Most public healthcare in rural areas is quite basic and inefficient. Most people have to travel hours for treatment and endure long waits for assistance because of understaffing. This especially affects Fijians living in the least developed areas. Most of the private hospitals are in Suva or Nadi. Here, they have 24-hour medical centers where accommodations of fairly decent, but the centers lack diagnostic equipment.
  2. Most poorer areas in Fiji started receiving benefits in 2008. It is why the poorer areas are slowly improving and upgrading their healthcare. Since 2017, the government has dedicated more than 70% of spending is to healthcare in Fiji. These spendings also include private hospitals and clinics. Slightly more of this spending goes to improving resources for impoverished communities.
  3. In 2019, Fiji’s Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT) became the first team in the Pacific islands to be capable of international deployment. It can respond across the Pacific with a range of medical attention for “up to 100 patients per day.” This includes clinical care services and severe trauma or non-trauma emergencies. This is a helpful start considering some staff needs more training, and in some cases, emergency services can be slow.
  4. The population was around 884,887 people on the islands in 2017, with Viti Levu and Vanua Levu being the most populated islands. The health system is slowly improving in different areas. The Burnet Institute from Australia is bringing government and community leaders along with health experts to develop more effective prevention and treatment for dengue fever and diabetes including other known common diseases. This also includes finding more helpful care strategies. According to The World Health Organization, life expectancy rates have started to improve slightly. By 2018, rates were at 67.34. In 1995, they were at 65.15.
  5. The Fijian government made an effort to make sure Fijians have access to healthy, safe water in 2018. It took part in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Summit. The government began working on the National Development Plan to make sure low developed areas would also receive 100% access to healthy water services. That same year, about 12% of Fijians didn’t have full clean water access. The National Water and Sanitation Policy are also supporting this governmental effort, which will improve diseases from spreading rapidly.

These five facts about Healthcare in Fiji show that it is still developing its healthcare system. Healthcare workers are currently upgrading emergency assistance and effective medications for the most common diseases. Now, with Covid-19 spreading, there is a wait for vaccines and more personal healthcare attention. Overall there have been some improvements and some that are taking more time.

Rachel Hernandez
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in fijiFiji may be best known for its beautiful beaches and luxury resorts, but it remains a developing country that deals with poverty. In fact, 31% of its population lives below the poverty line and struggles on a weekly basis to meet their needs. This article will look into homelessness in Fiji, some of its causes and why this is such a prevalent issue today.

Five Facts About Homelessness in Fiji

  1. Poverty in Fiji’s capital: Suva, Fiji’s capital, is home to many of the nation’s homeless citizens. This includes individuals as young as primary school children. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, says those who are homeless are not necessarily in this situation because of medical issues or lack of alternatives. She states that while some people are homeless due to mental illness, others simply moved away from their families for one reason or another. She also shares that this homelessness can be generational.
  2. High poverty rate: Approximately half a million people residing in Fiji are living in poverty. This plays a big role in the homeless population in regards to a lack of housing along with “unemployment, urban migration, non-renewal of government leases for land, overpopulation of farming areas and the breakdown of traditional village life and culture.” For Fiji to reduce this problem, the country would have to start by building a minimum of 4,200 homes per year. This would significantly help with housing standards but, as a developing country, this is a difficult task.
  3. Natural disasters: Another factor that is to blame for homelessness in Fiji is its natural disasters. Recently, Cyclone Harold devastated the islands of Fiji, as well as other islands such as the Solomon Islands. This category four storm took place from April 1st through the 11th. While the total number of homes that have been affected remains unknown, at least 46 homes just in the Bouwaqa Village on Vatulele in Fiji have been damaged and 14 have been completely destroyed, leaving dozens of people without a home to go back to.
  4. Violence against women: Violence against women and girls has caused an increase in homelessness. It was estimated that 84% of young women who fall into these categories experience intimate partner violence and 66% of them have succumbed to homelessness due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  5. Efforts to help: Since the coronavirus pandemic, Fiji has been in lockdown like the rest of the world. One family, however, has taken it upon themselves to continue their mission to feed the homeless. A 12-year-old boy named Junior, his parents and a small team of individuals call themselves “MISSION-1.” Even before lockdown, MISSION-1 would come to the streets of Suva every Sunday and provide food and hot beverages to the homeless. Despite lockdown and the risk of arrest, this team has continued to provide for those who are often forgotten. Australia has also stepped up since Cyclone Harold devastated the Fiji Islands and has sent tents, kitchen supplies, hygiene items, containers for water as well as shelter kits. This is Australia’s way of giving back and thanking Fiji for their support during the Australian bushfires.

With continued help, there is always hope that Fiji’s homelessness rate will begin to decline.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Fiji
The island of Fiji is located in the South Pacific Ocean and has a population of more than 895,000. A vibrant native population traverses the tropical climate of Fiji. The economy is dependent on agricultural products and tourism. Farmers cultivate bananas, cocoa, pineapple and taro root to supplement trade between nations, and commercial fishing and sugarcane are similarly important exports. Despite the high amount of trade between bordering islands and nations, 28% of native Fijians live below the national poverty line.

Relocation on Limited Land 

Many citizens of Fiji make a living in the boat-making or fishing industry; as a result, relocation threatens the livelihood of a small business economy. Rising water levels often force villages to move. Changing weather patterns have caused widening rivers and altered seasons, contributing to the issue. “Where there was rain, there is now sun,” reports a native islander who recently relocated because his village was flooded.

In the next ten years, an estimated 676 villages will be forced to move, which will increase the number of unemployed islanders. As unemployment increases, those who live above the poverty line are at risk of falling below the global margin of $1.90 per day. The relocation of one village costs an estimated $445,000.

Education and Health Care

Fiji consists of 100 inhabited islands, a number that is drastically decreasing due to the rising water levels. Implementation of primary healthcare practices and basic amenity improvements in villages provide locals with clean water and permanent housing. The adoption of these principles by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund sought to improve Fiji’s situation between 1970 and 2000. In the past 20 years, though, the flow of central health support from the capital city of Suva into villages has slowed due to a limited number of health professionals.

Previous Health Minister Jona Senilagakali states, “…the government did not schedule workers to go to all communities in all the islands to monitor the project. And health workers were not encouraged to work more with the communities to improve their health standards.”  The slow progress of Fiji’s modern health initiative is also a direct impact of “brain drain.” This occurs when educated individuals emigrate for higher-paid positions. Proper education in Fiji is also progressing rather slowly. Though secondary enrollment and literacy rates are high, the university system in Fiji lacks resources and government funding. Improving higher education largely depends on the willingness of the government to provide more aid to the people.

Prospects of Hope

Last year Fiji saw high prospects in the global market of reduced unemployment and the lowest amount of extreme poverty in the country’s history. The percentage of those living below the global poverty line, currently 0.5%, continues to fall as a result of incentives by the United Nations. In 2013, Fiji received honors from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization for a substantial decline in poverty and hunger among the population.

– Natalie Williams
Photo: Pixabay