period poverty in new ZealandOn February 18, 2021, New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and associate education minister, Jan Tinetti, announced that all schools in New Zealand will offer free menstrual products starting in June 2021, expanding on a pilot program that started in 2020. This announcement aligns with the country’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and is a major step toward eliminating the barriers created by period poverty in New Zealand.

Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy

The New Zealand government’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) launched the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy on August 29, 2019, with the vision of New Zealand becoming “the best place in the world for children and young people” to reach their full potential.

The six expected outcomes of this strategy are for children and young people to feel loved and safe, meet their material needs, be physically and mentally healthy, have access to education, receive acceptance for who they are and develop a sense of autonomy. These outcomes stem from the principle that children and young people are intrinsically valuable human beings with rights that must be respected. Furthermore, individuals and communities should act together as early as possible to promote the multifaceted well-being of children and young people.

Addressing Period Poverty in New Zealand

New Zealand’s free menstrual product program in schools aligns with the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy because period poverty is a significant barrier to a young person’s education. Prime Minister Ardern points to research showing that approximately one in 12 young people in New Zealand miss school because of being unable to manage their menstruation. Tinetti notes that many students who have their period while in school face embarrassment, stigma and discomfort and risk missing classes or not having the proper menstrual hygiene products.

Research from the New Zealand charity, KidsCan, found that up to 20,000 students at the primary, intermediate and secondary levels were at risk of period poverty. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights and exacerbates challenges associated with period poverty, including the lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and inadequate access to menstrual education as well as disrupted access to menstrual products.

The government’s new program expands on a pilot program that started in 2020 in which the government provided free menstrual products to more than 3,000 students in 15 schools in the Waikato region, located in northern New Zealand. Government officials used the feedback from the successful pilot program to inform its approach, with Tinetti noting that students wanted more information about the different kinds of menstrual products and how to manage their periods.

Other Period Poverty Programs

Private sector initiatives are also responding to period poverty in New Zealand by providing free menstrual products. For example, The Warehouse, one of the largest retailers in New Zealand, partnered with The Period Place to set up menstrual product donation boxes in several of its locations and provide free menstrual products in its store restrooms.

The Period Place is a New Zealand-based advocacy group whose vision is for New Zealand to be the first country to achieve period equity by 2030 in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Positive Periods is a coalition of 25 period poverty advocacy groups in New Zealand that advocate for the provision of free menstrual products in schools. In 2019, it released a discussion paper highlighting period poverty in New Zealand and its effect on educational outcomes. It also circulated a petition calling for free menstrual products in schools, which received more than 3,000 signatures.

The Road Ahead

Period poverty in New Zealand is an issue that affects the health and well-being of thousands of girls and women. The government’s free menstrual product program in schools is an important step toward ensuring that all girls and women can pursue an education and manage their menstruation with dignity.

Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in New Zealand
During the international struggle of dealing with COVID-19, New Zealand stood out as one of the few nations able to effectively and quickly minimize the virus. But the effects of COVID-19 on child poverty in New Zealand have worsened one of the country’s biggest social problems. More than 235,000 children live in poverty in New Zealand, a striking number considering New Zealand’s population of 4.8 million.

Child poverty in New Zealand is among the nation’s most dominant social issues. Tackling child poverty was a key tenant of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party Platform prior to her 2020 reelection. However, the economic fallout from the pandemic has hampered the government’s ability to deal with widespread poverty. Still, the government’s pandemic population assistance could be useful for taking on child poverty in the long term.

The Pandemic of Child Poverty

The New Zealand government defines child poverty across three measures. The first two include children living in low-income families before and after factoring in housing costs. The other encompasses children facing “material hardship.” Material hardship is a condition that a list of 17 factors in a child’s day-to-day life measures, such as owning two pairs of good shoes or having financial access to a doctor. If a child does not meet six of these items, the government considers them as living in material hardship. The government estimates that 13.4% of children in New Zealand were in material hardship in 2019 and that 20.8% of children lived in poverty after factoring in housing costs.

Even before COVID-19, the reduction of child poverty in New Zealand was challenging for the federal government. Even though Ardern and the Labour Party ran on the promise they would halve child poverty and material hardship by 2028, the percentage of children living below the poverty rate dropped by only 1.6% between 2018 and 2019. Early in 2020, UNICEF ranked New Zealand as having the 33rd worst record on child poverty out of 37 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

COVID-19 Response and Alleviating Poverty

The New Zealand government’s response to COVID-19 provided a number of economic and social safety nets to those the pandemic affected, dedicating 4% of its GDP to pandemic relief. New Zealanders received a weekly relief payment until June 30, 2020. The amounts ranged from $585 a week for full-time employees and $350 a week for part-time employees. The government also introduced wage subsidy programs for employers and employees, allowing families to earn their pre-pandemic income even if they were unable to work regular hours or at their place of employment.

According to the government’s 2020 Wellbeing Budget, these relief programs kept several families from slipping into poverty throughout the pandemic. In managing the COVID-19 crisis, Jacinda Ardern’s government found effective ways to manage child poverty in New Zealand. It did this through the subsidization of wages and relief programs with the intention of protecting household economic stability. In addition to wage subsidies and relief packages, the government has worked to fight poverty during the pandemic through:

  • Doubling the “Winter Energy Payment,” a welfare program with a design of helping low-income families and pensioners pay for energy bills.
  • Introducing a rent freeze to prevent low-income or unemployed households from eviction.
  • Negotiating with major banks on deferring mortgages.

The Future of Child Poverty Response

These benefits are temporary, with the purpose of shielding New Zealanders from the economic impact of the pandemic. However, the government is incorporating economic relief into its long-term plans to tackle child poverty in New Zealand. Labour’s 2020 Manifesto, which the government’s response to the pandemic shaped, includes extensive plans to assist low-income New Zealand households and workers. This includes extensions of COVID-19 relief programs, such as wage subsidies for those seeking employment.

Child poverty in New Zealand remains a high national priority for the government and the people of New Zealand. The government’s fast response to COVID-19 mitigated what could have been a disastrous increase in child poverty. Should Jacinda Ardern’s coalition government between Labour and the Green Party continue to follow the success of its COVID-19 response, New Zealand could take major strides in tackling child poverty.

– Kieran Graulich
Photo: Flickr

SDG 1 in New Zealand
World leaders adopted the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the first of which is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere,” in 2015. In 2019, New Zealand leaders published the findings of the Voluntary National Review as New Zealand’s Progress Towards the SDGs – 2019. Through this report, others can learn the challenges facing the people of New Zealand, the strides the country has made thus far and improvements to come for each SDG, including updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand.

A key challenge New Zealanders face comes in the form of the inequities that can exist in poverty-related measures. According to New Zealand’s 2018 Census, 16.5% of the population are Māori (indigenous New Zealanders) and 8.1% are Pacific Islanders, who poverty disproportionately affects. Poverty is also worse among those living with disabilities. The updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand to follow, contextualized by the challenges the country faces and the goals for the coming years, yield a broad picture of the nation’s approach to poverty alleviation and successes thus far. Here are seven updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand.

7 Updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand

  1. Child Poverty Reduction and Wellbeing Acts: This legislation requires that the New Zealand government sets targets for three predetermined child poverty measures at both three- and 10-year intervals. The New Zealand government is also responsible for publishing annual reports on those measures as well as relevant indicators. For example, the 2020/21 target for the reduction of material hardship is from 13% to 10% of children, whereas the 2027/28 target stretches that to just 6% of children.
  2. Families Package and Wellbeing Budget: Through changes to tax credits, free school lunches, and more, the Families Package and Wellbeing Budget aimed to boost incomes of 62% of households with children in New Zealand, by 2021. According to a 2020 report, the Families Package had already improved the situation of 18,400 children enough for them to no longer live in poverty.
  3. Increase in the Minimum Wage: One of the clearest cut strategies for alleviating poverty was to increase the country’s minimum wage, with the expectation that the country will continue to increase it as the economy permits. New Zealand applied a 7.2% increase in 2019, followed by a 6.3% boost in 2020.
  4. Establishment of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group: The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) has the task of advising the New Zealand government as to how and why the nation’s welfare programs should change in order to provide the most benefit to its people. Just a year after its establishment, WEAG completed a report detailing how the nation’s social security system ought to evolve. The report, Wakamana Tāngata – Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand, includes 42 recommendations for the nation to move from simply providing a safety net to restoring dignity to its citizens. WEAG’s approach emphasizes problem-solving through collaboration with researchers and stakeholders across the country.
  5. Public and Affordable Housing Expansion: Not only is work underway to provide additional options for public and affordable housing, but the New Zealand government also aims to improve the conditions for those living in rental housing. Housing costs are of particular importance when considering how to reduce inequities and poverty in general. In fact, data revealed that 14.9% of children lived in poverty in 2019 even beyond taking housing costs into account, whereas that proportion jumped to 20.8% after factoring in housing costs.
  6. Disability Action Planning: With a new Disability Action Plan having taken effect since the publication of the Voluntary National Review, it is pertinent to look at the most recent plan for 2019-2023. Through the detailing of 25 programs with the primary design of narrowing the gap in employment between disabled and non-disabled people, this plan serves to move New Zealand forward in line with the Disability Strategy 2016-2026.
  7. Broader Sample for Household Economic Survey: In the hopes of capturing a holistic picture of the financial situations of all its people, the New Zealand’s Household Economic Survey expanded its sampling to 20,000 people. With this more inclusive understanding of the impact of the economy on individual households, the nation’s leaders hope to be better equipped to address the challenges faced therein. As mentioned above, it is of vital importance that New Zealand not only combat the inequities among its citizens but also accurately measure them.

As with many countries, these updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand serve to share measures of the success achieved thus far, and as motivation to continue this important work. Other nations and leaders can also consider these points inspiration for strategies to combat poverty worldwide.

– Amy Perkins
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in New Zealand
Mental health in New Zealand became an important issue in the New Zealand 2017 general election. One survey from 2016/17 shows that 19% of New Zealand adults experienced anxiety and 20% experienced depression. In response to voter concern about low funding and a shortage of mental health professionals, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern created the well-being budget in 2019.

The Well-Being Budget’s Objectives

The well-being budget has five main objectives:

  • Transition to a sustainable, low-emission economy.
  • Support a digital age in the nation.
  • Raise Māori and Pacific economic position.
  • Reduce child poverty.
  • Support mental health.

Within the well-being budget, New Zealand has allocated $1.9 billion toward mental well-being specifically over five years. The aim of this new well-being approach in mental health is to replace New Zealand’s outdated Mental Health Act with a more comprehensive mental health framework that focuses on wider quality of life measures and making long-term improvements to the system of mental health services.

The Mental Health Act

New Zealand originally enacted its Mental Health Act, also known as the Compulsory Assessment and Treatment Act, in 1992. The act mainly concerns individuals who could be a danger to themselves or others. This act states that doctors should try to obtain a patient’s consent, but that it is not absolutely necessary; in fact, they can use a degree of coercion in attempting to get a patient’s consent. Many no longer consider this kind of treatment acceptable, so one of the main objectives New Zealand’s government set to improve mental health services within the well-being budget is to replace the Mental Health Act with a law that is more in line with international standards.

The Well-Being Budget

New Zealand’s mental health provisions in the well-being budget come out of a longer trend moving the focus of mental health treatment to recovery and social well-being. This movement stresses individuals’ rights to make the most informed decisions for themselves. To support mental health in New Zealand, the government set goals to establish the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, strengthen suicide prevention response, replace the Mental Health Act and expand access to services.

New Zealand’s plan for suicide prevention has a $40 million budget that will go toward bolstering existing services as well as place more nurses in secondary schools to reach students. Expanding access to mental health services also comes as a two-part plan. The first part involves making mental health services a part of existing primary care services and the second part involves increasing the workforce of therapists and psychologists that provide therapy for people that have mild to moderate mental health diagnoses.

Progress

While the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic placed additional stress on New Zealand’s mental health services, the country has still made considerable progress:

  • Passed the necessary legislation to create a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission (which should be operational by February 2021).
  • Used $40 million to create a Suicide Prevention Office and a suicide action plan.
  • Begun drafting to replace the 1992 Mental Health Act with the updated legislation.
  • Pledged $455 million toward new primary mental health and addiction services over the next five years.

The rollout of many of these new policies and services slowed down in 2020 to put more focus on the COVID-19 response, but expectations have determined that the rollout will pick up more in 2021. Mental health in New Zealand has come a long way, but the government still has not met all of the goals it laid out in the well-being budget.

– Starr Sumner
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in New Zealand
Like many other countries in the developed world, New Zealand has an aging population. Projections have determined that by 2036, one in 4.5 New Zealanders will be 65 and older. Although the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique set of challenges for New Zealand’s elderly and exacerbated elderly poverty in New Zealand, programs exist to support this growing demographic.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 calls for an end to poverty in all forms. An important aspect of achieving this goal is addressing the specific issue of elderly poverty. The risk of falling into poverty increases with age because of a decreased ability to work, lack of savings and need for long-term care, among other factors. Public social security pensions and the availability of affordable health care are effective institutional solutions to respond to elderly poverty.

COVID-19 in New Zealand

In 2020, New Zealand has become the envy of the world for its swift and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recording only 25 deaths, daily life in New Zealand is essentially back to normal. However, the country’s elderly population suffered the most during the pandemic. They have died and become critically ill in greater numbers compared to other age groups. New Zealanders aged 60 and older account for 15.9% of all recorded COVID-19 cases in the country, and 23 of all COVID-19 deaths. Many of those deaths happened in residential care facilities that lacked adequate PPE, testing and training. In May 2020, the New Zealand Ministry of Health introduced a detailed questionnaire for clinical professionals to complete on behalf of new residents and residents returning from the community and hospitals to assess when they should receive a COVID-19 test. The Ministry of Health expects that this new measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in residential care facilities will reassure health care providers, residents and their families about the safety of these facilities.

Elderly Poverty in Indigenous Communities

Elderly poverty in New Zealand is prevalent in Māori communities. According to the UN expert on older people Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, older Māori living in both urban and rural areas are “extremely vulnerable and disadvantaged.” Reporter Jenny Ling writes about the “hidden homeless” of New Zealand’s Far North region. Here, many elderly Māori individuals live in conditions comparable to the developing world. Cardboard lines and corrugated metal panels line houses and are often without electricity or running water. Local nurse and businesswoman Rhonda Zielinski runs a program that provides cabins to these individuals who pay what they can each week, giving them a chance to become homeowners. At the time that Ling published her report, more than one dozen individuals received their own cabin, and more than 100 people were on the waiting list.

The Old-age Pensions Act

Multiple nationwide programs exist to respond to elderly poverty in New Zealand. In 1898, it led the world in championing the rights of the elderly by being the first country in the world to create a pension system that tax dollars funded via the Old-age Pensions Act. Then-Prime Minister Richard Seddon and his Liberal government approached this from the understanding that a country has the responsibility of providing for elderly citizens who cannot provide for themselves. Individuals aged 65 and older who have lived in New Zealand for at least 10 years since they turned 20 qualify for old-age pension, although monthly payments may vary depending on factors such as relationship status and living situation.

KiwiSaver

In 2007, the New Zealand government introduced another program called KiwiSaver out of concern that New Zealanders were not saving enough money for retirement through private arrangements. KiwiSaver is a voluntary, government-subsidized program that allows both the KiwiSaver member and their employer to pay into it. Unlike old-age pensions, when KiwiSaver members withdraw their funds at age 65, they receive a lump sum, not monthly payments. KiwiSaver has had a positive impact on New Zealand’s economy as a whole, with 60% of its funds invested in the country and raising exports, employment, and GDP as a result.

The Better Later Life Strategy

Acknowledging the country’s shifting demographics and the challenges that many of its elderly individuals face, New Zealand’s Minister for Seniors, the Hon. Tracey Martin launched the Better Later Life Strategy in 2019. The principles of valuing people as they age, keeping people safe and embracing diversity guide the strategy. It also emphasizes the importance of collective responsibility and a whānau-centered (the Māori word for one’s extended family) approach to aging.

Local efforts such as the one created by Zielinski in the Far North, as well as the government strategies of their longstanding pension program, KiwiSaver, and the Better Late Life strategy, are all steps in the right direction to prevent elderly poverty in New Zealand, ensuring that all New Zealanders, Māori and non-Māori alike, can age with dignity.

– Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Flickr

New Zealand's Foreign Aid
A small country can have a big impact beyond its borders when it knows what it is doing. While the United State’s foreign aid receives significant attention, some pay considerably less attention to the efforts of nations in uniquely beneficial positions to help, such as New Zealand. Here is some information about New Zealand’s foreign aid.

Unique Location

New Zealand is far from its nearest big neighbors. This relatively small island of about 100,000 square miles and just under 5 million people brought the world the film adaptations of “The Lord of the Rings,” the comic musical duo Flight of the Conchords and what some call the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the world. Despite a rich cultural impact, New Zealand also has a history of others overlooking it. On a world map or globe, New Zealand should show up to the right and slightly downwind of Australia. Instead, it almost looks like it went the way of the fabled Atlantis, swallowed up by the ocean, vanishing mysteriously without a trace, ready for adventurous archaeologists to make endless documentaries trying and failing to find it.

This modern mapmaking tendency to treat New Zealand like it went the way of the Dodo ended up turning into a tourism campaign that ran the tagline of “Getting New Zealand on the Map.” This happenstance showcases the humor and humility that Kiwis, the nickname for New Zealand citizens after the namesake unique bird, are known for. But while the country is breathtaking in its own right, perhaps its gifted application of focused foreign aid is what will really put New Zealand on the map in years to come.

New Zealand’s Foreign Aid and the Pacific Islands

While remote, New Zealand is not isolated in the sense of its outreach focus and capabilities. The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has received praise for her empathetic approach to leadership which seems to extend to the foreign policy that her administration enacts. While New Zealand provides aid across many regions including Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, a particular focus goes to its closest neighbors in the Pacific Islands region. This includes countries known as small island developing States (SIDS) like Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa to name a few.

While undeniably beautiful, many of these islands are extremely remote making it challenging to provide them with a steady flow of viable trade and resources. The situation has worsened in part because the islands have also been among those that tend to experience significant natural disasters and environmental challenges. The UN reported that a fourth of all Pacific Islanders live below what it considers the basic needs poverty line.

This is where New Zealand comes in. As a nation that consistently ranks as having a high quality of life, it is working to provide aid to its fellow islanders. New Zealand is also arguably better equipped to understand the challenges facing island dwellers than larger landlocked nations governments.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)

According to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) website, its policy acts on the notion that stability in the region surrounding a homeland is crucial for the success and stability of the homeland as well. This type of foreign aid does not intend to be a charity endeavor, but rather an investment that has shown great promise in minimizing and even sidestepping unnecessary conflicts entirely. To that effect, roughly 60% of New Zealand’s Official Development Assistance funds go toward “…shared community interest in the prosperity and stability of the [Pacific] region.” The dollar amount of this contribution is around $1.331 billion and helps the collective efforts of more than 30 government agencies throughout the Pacific region.

MFAT sets criteria and monitors the implementation plans of the countries that receive these funds. The overarching aim of these allocations and efforts is to foster infrastructure and trade development. Like many nations that have significant foreign aid programs, the result is potentially mutually beneficial as new markets emerge in tandem with stable governments and societies. To understand the success of its programs as objectively as possible, MFAT has stated that it uses external evaluators. Such a strategy is one of increased accountability without crossing the line into overbearing and overregulated. MFAT also focuses on humanitarian outreach and disaster relief, again with a specified focus on the Pacific Islands region. It acts as a support rather than a domineering neighbor.

Uniquely Focused Scholarships

New Zealand offers a clever array of scholarships with different beneficial outcomes in mind. Of particular interest are the short-term training scholarships for pacific citizens which provide comprehensive skills training as well as valuable job experience. For those struggling in the Pacific Islands, an opportunity like this can provide them with a relatively quick and practical way to change their lives. An English Language Training for Officials Scholarship is also available to government officials from qualifying African and Asian nations. From workers making a livable wage to those governing entire countries, these educational focuses do well to showcase the different angles in which New Zealand is hoping to foster more stable communities near and far from home.

A Useful Blueprint

New Zealand’s efforts provide a wonderful blueprint that other small, but economically strong nations worldwide could apply. While a greater challenge, the largest developed countries could utilize its strategy in foreign aid practices. If New Zealand’s foreign aid practices show the world anything, it is that insurmountable problems seem more manageable when empathetic eyes view them.

– Jack Leggett III
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in New Zealand
New Zealand is a lush island country in the Pacific Ocean. It comprises of two main islands; the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) and the South Island (Te Waipounamu) in addition to about 600 smaller island landmasses. With a total population of approximately 5 million people, it is not the most populous of countries, but New Zealand has garnered worldwide recognition as a tourist destination. This is partly due to its stunning ocean views, rolling green hills and jagged mountainsides. In fact, New Zealand is a sought-after location for film, with popular movies like “the Lord of the Rings” showcasing the natural beauty of the area. However, such an idyllic and prosperous country has a darker underbelly. Poverty exists in New Zealand despite it being a developed country.

The Facts

One can define poverty in New Zealand as living in a household that makes 60% less than the average, taking housing costs into consideration. In New Zealand, massive economic restructuring beginning in the 1980s has resulted in prosperity for some, and poverty for others. In 1984, the national poverty rate was 9%. Comparatively, in 2016, the poverty rate was 15%. This represents a decrease from the peak poverty rate of 22% in 2004 but still remains significantly higher than before the mid-1980s, as a direct result of economic change including hard hits during the 2008 recession. Today, about one in seven households experience poverty, with one in five reporting that they do not have access to food or healthy food due to a lack of money according to The National Children’s Nutrition Survey. This means that around 290,000 children (or 27%) were living in poverty in 2017.

When people do not have access to financial and emotional resources, their health is more likely to suffer. New Zealand shows this as children experiencing poverty are more than twice as likely to visit the hospital than those who are not. They are also far more likely to experience health consequences like heart disease, obesity and addiction. These problems often follow children into adulthood, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Who is Most Affected?

There is an inequitable distribution of poverty in New Zealand, with Pacific Peoples and other indigenous groups like the Māori and Pakeha peoples experiencing higher levels of poverty than other people. A shocking 40% of Pacific Peoples have an income below the poverty line, with Māori coming in second with nearly one-third of their population experiencing poverty. Additionally, children are harder-hit than other groups. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the developed world.

According to UNICEF, a child dies every five weeks due to violence. Experiencing or seeing violence as a child can lead to negative long-term effects like drug-use, early pregnancy, anxiety and mental disorders and can compound the effects of poverty into adulthood. It is important to reduce childhood poverty rates because statistics have shown that where poverty rates drop, birthrates decrease as well.

Families that are living in poverty need to spend their time and energy on survival, and by necessity spend less time on things like education, emotional health and community. This creates a cycle of more people living in poverty, making the problem bigger over time. If more people come out of poverty now, fewer people will continue to live in poverty in the future. Preventing the inequitable effects of poverty on certain populations is vital in increasing the standard of living for many people and children across New Zealand, especially native populations.

Steps to Fix the Problem

By 2030, New Zealand aims to decrease the number of children living in poverty by half. This is part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Some policies that the government of New Zealand implemented include tax breaks and affordable housing strategies, as housing costs are a huge reason many residents struggle to pay the bills. New legislation has emerged, including the Child Poverty Reduction and Wellbeing act. This passed in 2018 and outlines a detailed, 10-year strategy that includes measures like extending parental leave to 26 weeks, providing increased resources for abuse victims, increasing the minimum wage to $20 per hour by 2021, and expanding parenting support resources. Over the past 10 years, New Zealand has reduced poverty rates and with new, aggressive legislation, should see a boost in those numbers as time goes on.

– Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Global Food SecurityThe global population has been growing exponentially in the last few decades as compared to earlier times in human history, given that 42% of the population is under the age of 25. With a rapidly growing population, global food security is threatened and it is expected that without major agricultural enhancement, there will not be enough food for future generations. By 2050, crop production must grow by 60-100% from 2005 levels in order to avoid this fate.

Youth hold the future of the global food system in their hands. There are many young people working to combat the global food security crisis in a way that puts sights on the future, not the present. Through scientific innovations, advocacy and more, these young men and women not only give hope for a world with less hunger but also vehemently encourage others to join them. Some examples of their work follow. 

Kiranjit Kaur: Kisan Mazdoor Khudkushi Peedit Parivar Committee

Kiranjit Kaur of India, a 23-year-old political science postgraduate student from Punjab state, is a pioneer in the fight against farmer suicide. Losing her own father to suicide spurred her to focus on community engagement to address the statistics of over 16,000 farmer suicides in India each year. With 39% of the employed population working in agriculture, success is important for the health and well-being of farming families.

Punjab was an agricultural haven during the Green Revolution, but since the 1990s, with increased land productivity and the cost of agriculture, loans have become a norm and financial stress has increased. Kaur motivates the women in her community to participate in a social campaign that focuses on mental health, mutual support and activism. As for now, she spends most of her time working with the group but plans to do a Ph.D. on farmer suicide in the future.

Craig Piggott: Halter

A New Zealand native, Craig Piggott dedicates his talents to agricultural innovations in herding and tracking cows. His invention involves a GPS-enabled and solar-powered collar for cows, Halter, which enables farmers to herd the animals remotely; using sounds and vibrations to both direct the cows and alert the farmers of any issues. Piggott developed the app through three years of testing, and a few dairy farmers in Waikato are eager to implement the technology within their own herds. With more testing and exposure, he hopes to extend the program nationally to aid New Zealand’s agricultural field.

This innovative app will save time and resources by decreasing the farmer’s workload and using grazing grass more efficiently, thanks to the virtual fences. Piggott’s company was founded in 2016 when he was 22-years-old and has grown to a current team of more than 40 scientists, engineers and other professionals.

Sophie Healy-Thow: Scaling Up Nutrition

Sophie Healy-Thow, a 20-year-old Irish college student, is a prominent European name in the rural development advocacy and global food security spaces. She and her team’s natural bacteria project won the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in 2013, and she was also named one of Time magazine’s Most Influential Teens. Healy-Thow also speaks out about calling leaders to action, and hopes for a time when young people are listened to and engaged instead of just getting a pat on the head.

Today she speaks at the U.N. conventions and TED talks and is part of a team developing a Kenyan project called Agrikua, which focuses on encouraging women’s involvement in agriculture, providing education and other support. After university, she plans to work for a charitable organization that helps women, inspired by her current involvement in ActionAid U.K.

Jefferson Kang’acha: The Eden Horticultural Club

Food security is not a new issue in 19-year-old Jefferson Kang’acha’s life in Kenya, and he works to grow tomatoes in order to protect the staple ingredient of many Kenyan households. Due to declining yields, the price of tomatoes has spiked to high prices that most Kenyan families cannot afford. In response, Kang’acha developed the hydroponic production of tomatoes, which grows the plants with no soil and in a controlled climate.

By founding the Eden Horticultural Club, he is able to provide tomatoes to his community, including schools and hospitals in the area. In the first few months alone, he was able to distribute 2.5 tons of tomatoes to more than 100 households. He hopes to one day use this process to assist global food security throughout Africa and beyond.

The Future of Global Food Security

The future of the agriculture industry is hard to predict, but the U.N. encourages youth participation and innovation to solve the problem. Goal 2 of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) seeks to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” Vast problems require bold solutions, and these four young people are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovators doing their part to protect global food security.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Pixabay

positive covid-19 storiesThe COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed the world. While many countries have been devastated, three countries have positive COVID-19 stories: New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam. Here are their positive COVID-19 stories and the lessons they learned from their experiences.

New Zealand

The pacific island nation of around 5 million people had a couple of different strategies in its response to COVID-19. In particular, unity within New Zealand and the nation’s neighboring countries played a big role in the country’s success against the virus. New Zealand offered to help its neighboring countries to prepare for the pandemic. To do so, the country offered health training and made sure that its island neighbors had supplies to fight the virus. Importantly, this unity in New Zealand bridged across political party lines when needed. This resulted in a massive stimulus package passed just weeks after the country’s first case. The stimulus totaled NZ$12.1 billion, around 4% of the country’s GDP. Included in the stimulus package is support for businesses, support for testing and health services and payments to those who couldn’t work because of the virus.

Caution also plays a big part in New Zealand’s success against the virus. The first case of the virus was detected on 28 Feb. 2020. Even before that, however, the government took measures to limit the possible damage of COVID-19. When New Zealand only had 283 cases, the government ordered all non-essential workers to work from home to limit the virus’s spread.

Moreover, the government came up with a four-level alert system to help people know how the virus is spreading. Level one means the disease is contained in New Zealand and level four means community transmission is happening and the disease is not contained. Given how much time the country has spent in the lower levels, its represents one of many positive COVID-19 stories that the whole world can learn from.

Thailand

Thailand is one of the countries that have positive COVID-19 stories. The Asian country of almost 70 million people was designated a success by the WHO. The economy of Thailand is one that is heavily built on tourism, with one-fifth of GDP coming from the tourist sector. However, since the virus has spread, the government of Thailand has had to make economic sacrifices to protect public health. The country had to close its borders to certain travelers, including many Chinese provinces. In addition, Thailand postponed many sporting events and held them without fans to slow the spread of the virus. In particular, Bangkok was in a partial lockdown with only essential services remaining open. Slowing down activity does hurt the economy, but it eases the blow of the virus.

Thailand has also mobilized more than 1 million health volunteers to help respond to the virus. In addition, the government’s health officials have taken the side of precaution throughout the pandemic. This includes rigorous hygiene and wearing face masks at all times. Moreover, Thai people have generally followed the advice of medical professionals, which has contributed to the Thailand’s COVID-19 success story. The Thai government also has one centralized administration, which helped with communication and organization throughout the pandemic.

Vietnam

Vietnam is also among countries with positive COVID-19 stories. Vietnam’s actions to deal with the virus came early and were aggressive, taking place before the virus even entered the country. This early and decisive action is one of the measures that helped Vietnam early on and controlled the virus’s spread. In early January 2020, Vietnam was already preparing for drastic action before there was a recorded case in the country.

Vietnam enacted travel restrictions, closed schools and enacted a rigorous contact and tracing system, while also canceling public events. Governmental communication was upfront and transparent. Consequently, this helped with public compliance to slow the virus outbreak. Vietnam has been one of the best countries in regard to wearing a face mask, which helps slow the spread of the virus. A coordinated media effort throughout Vietnam has also helped the public and government be on the same page in response to the virus.

Another reason Vietnam has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 is its testing. The country tests everyone in quarantine whether they have symptoms or not. This helps slow the spread of the virus, because not everyone who is infected shows symptoms. As a result, younger people who may be infected but don’t have symptoms don’t infect those who may be at higher risk of death to COVID-19. While there was no nationwide lockdown, Vietnam did impose containment on certain areas to reduce the spread of the virus. In February 2020, when a small handful of cases were in the area of Son Loi, the government sealed off the area to prevent the spread of the virus.

What We Can Learn from These Countries

These three countries show positive COVID-19 stories despite a situation that has turned negative in so many countries. A few similarities have emerged between the countries and their success. One is the unity between government and people, which is important to building communication and trust. When citizens trust their government and can easily access clear guidelines, they are more likely to comply with health measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Another similarity between these countries is that it’s better to be cautious rather than reckless. This helps to slow the spread of the virus and make it easier to track. With all the hardship and destruction brought on by COVID-19, these countries with positive COVID-19 stories show how to keep as many people as safe as possible.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Pexels

healthcare in tokelauThe dependent territory of New Zealand, Tokelau, lies in the Pacific Ocean. It consists of three atolls, or islands made up of coral: Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo. Tokelau has the world’s smallest economy, with an annual GDP per capita of $6,275 and a population of only 1,500 people. A lack of human resources and considerable financial constraints severely limit the Department of Health in Tokelau in addressing the population’s healthcare needs. Here are seven facts about healthcare in Tokelau.

7 Facts About Healthcare in Tokelau

  1. Population health: Tokelau’s central health issues are non-communicable diseases (NCDs), especially cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases. From 2007 to 2010, cardiovascular diseases in Tokelau had a mortality rate of 17%. Aside from viruses, other principal causes of death in Tokelau include old age, neoplasms (unusual growth of body tissue) and accidental death, often the result of trauma. Because of minimal amounts of physical activity, about 75% of Tokelauns are obese, and close to 50% of Tokelauans smoke daily.
  2. Hospital access: Each of the three atolls has one hospital. Every hospital has some medical and diagnostic equipment available for use, along with 12 beds. However, the hospitals lack some basic technology, like x-ray machines.
  3. Lack of healthcare workers: As of October 2012, there were only 37 healthcare workers across all three atolls. Each hospital has one medical officer, four to five nurses, four to five nurses’ aides and a porter. Healthcare in Tokelau suffers from a lack of doctors and specialized professionals in particular.
  4. Lack of secondary and tertiary care: While the three hospitals can provide some level of care for their patients, they cannot afford specialized employees and more intensive treatment. NCDs, the primary healthcare needs faced by Tokelauans, require intensive care. Currently, patients requiring such services go offshore to either Samoa or, in more critical cases, New Zealand.
  5. Funding: A combination of grant money from New Zealand, local revenue and international aid funds healthcare in Tokelau. However, the budget for healthcare is insufficient. Tokelau relies on aid from international organizations because it still lacks the means to invest in healthcare infrastructure on a large scale.
  6. Lack of transportation: Healthcare in Tokelau also lacks an inter-atoll transportation system. This creates a decentralized hospital system, with three separate hospitals. Climate change and natural disasters further strain healthcare in Tokelau.
  7. High life expectancy: Despite its unique challenges, Tokelau has worked to improve its healthcare system. Tokelauans have a reasonably high life expectancy rate compared to other countries in the Pacific region. In addition, Tokelau does not have high maternal or infant mortality rates.

Tokelau Health Strategic Plan 2016-2020

In August 2016, Tokelau launched a new initiative to better its healthcare infrastructure, called the Tokelau Health Strategic Plan. This plan has three parts: short-term goals in 2016 to 2018, intermediate goals from 2018 to 2020, and long-term goals for 2020 and beyond. Furthermore, Tokelau’s healthcare plan has created four key ideas to help guide the country’s healthcare initiatives. These ideas are developing healthcare infrastructure, improving general public health, improving governance of healthcare services and creating better clinical services for the island’s population.

The most important aspect of the plan is the construction of a National Referral Hospital in Nukunonu, the largest of the three atolls. With the creation of the new National Referral Hospital, Tokelau would be able to alleviate the issues caused by its decentralized healthcare system.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been working in conjunction with the Tokelau government to see this plan through. WHO outlined these priorities to oversee the advancement of Tokelau’s healthcare:

  1. Monitor the healthcare situation in Tokelau and develop strategies that would work in tandem with Tokelau’s healthcare strategies.
  2. Monitor NCDs, improve treatment regulations and care for patients and increase access to medication.
  3. Develop healthcare infrastructure to minimize tobacco use in Tokelau and implement strategies to strengthen immunization.

Tokelau faces many challenges ahead as it looks to improve its healthcare system. The majority of these challenges come from a lack of economic means and a decentralized healthcare system. However, with international aid and the healthcare plan, the government can work to improve healthcare for all of its citizens’ benefit.

Anushka Somani
Photo: Flickr