Oceania's Isolated Families
The diverse cultures inhabiting the plethora of Oceanic islands in the Pacific Ocean interest people across the world. With over 12 million people combined living on these islands (every country excluding Australia and New Zealand), Oceania has developed small isolated farming communities into cultures that primarily thrive off mineral exports, tourism and agricultural goods. However, these communities are having difficulties providing health care to Oceania’s isolated families.

Getting By

Many typically consider Oceania’s island countries to be poorer nations, dependent on trade from larger nations; yet this sentiment is misleading. Despite some country’s struggling, Melanesia and Micronesia both boast low unemployment rates. Moreover, Fiji has had a 5% unemployment rate as of 2017. However, these rates of unemployment do not tell the full story.

The employment opportunities in these countries vary between the islands, although government employment typically supports most citizens. However, most of the islands have hardly any people employed in the health sector. Isolated island chains, such as the archipelago Kiribati, have smaller islands with no doctors at all. When considering that even the most remote islands have populations exceeding 50, the problem is evident; how will these people receive medical treatment?

A Rooted Problem

This problem generates a cycle for the isolated populations living on the islands. Their unhealthy diets, which primarily consists of imported non-perishables for many islanders, leave them potentially overweight and susceptible to diseases and infections. In worse news, the islands seldom have medicine available. These cultures depend on shipments from larger countries to provide medicine to their people, which usually only come every few months (or not at all).

This creates an ever-lasting problem for the native island populations because they are susceptible to infections, yet have little to no available treatment. When matters reach life-threatening circumstances, some families have no choice but to fly their loved ones off the island to a larger nation, typically New Zealand or Australia, and opt for life-saving surgery. This leads to massive medical bills which many of the poorer families on the islands may never pay off.

The NGO Solution

Community development and government action will spur the islands’ long-term change, but for now, NGOs are lending their efforts to the cause. One organization, called Sea Mercy, approaches island poverty in multiple ways, but one initiative, called FHCC, funds a two-week trip aboard a boat for volunteer physicians of various fields to sail to isolated islands and provide medical care for the people living there.

Many other NGOs, such as Pacific Islands Medical Aid, operate under similar parameters of sending volunteer physicians to the islands, providing health care, sending shipments of medicines and even teaching tactics to local nurses. Even though their stay is limited, these physicians save countless lives annually just by their timely presence. This shows that even with a small amount of available medical professionals, many Pacific Islands would have much less difficulty providing health care to Oceania’s isolated families.

Looking at the Future

While these islands slowly continue to grow, increased job diversification will continue, reaching each independent land, optimistically leading to more health specialists for Oceania’s isolated families. For now, NGOs provide excellent service, saving lives and setting a global standard. With the brilliant cultural diversity of Oceania, preserving the health of these nations should sit as a top global priority.

– Joe Clark
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

Indigenous Australians
Many generally regard Australia as a wealthy and successful country, but in the past year, more than one in five Australians (about 22%) have faced food insecurity. Indigenous Australians experience food insecurity at a disproportionate rate. More than 26% of Indigenous households ran out of food at least once in 2019 and were unable to buy more due to high prices. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) found that percentage to be even higher at 43% in remote Indigenous communities.

Who Are the Indigenous Australians?

Indigenous Australians are the descendants of people who lived in Australia and the surrounding areas prior to European colonization in the late 18th century. They comprise approximately 3% of the total population of Australia and have classification under two groups of Indigenous communities: the Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders. One-third of all Indigenous Australians live in developed cities, while two-thirds live in rural areas across the country.

What Causes Food Insecurity for Indigenous Peoples?

Reports from locals of moldy produce and overpriced food have been surfacing in sparsely populated areas, prompting questions about the quality of food provided to the Indigenous communities of Australia. At the heart of the conversation is Outback Stores, a not-for-profit and federally funded grocery store chain. The organization emerged to supply Indigenous Australians with access to a wide array of healthy, high-quality food and protect against food insecurity, but locals say it is failing.

Outback Stores has 40 locations that serve rural and remote communities, 26 of which CEO Michael Borg called “unviable or barely viable.” Submissions to the local federal inquiry have claimed “disgusting” pricing of products, saying items such as a can of baby formula and a single pack of diapers are tagged at $50 each. Many available products are also either inedible or unwanted, deterring people from purchasing them even if they could afford to. Many community members have reported that week-old fruits and vegetables rotting in fridges are the only healthy produce options and shelves contain bags of sugar. One resident wrote that Spam, two-minute noodles and white bread were the only food staples available if you were “hungry enough to buy what is in [front] of you.”

How Does Food Insecurity Connect to Poverty?

Health and well-being are also a large concern with food insecurity. Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to live with a chronic illness or other disability compared to non-Indigenous Australians. A prolonged lack of access to healthy food causes subsequent poor nutrition and results in heightened illness and disease rates in Indigenous communities.

Rural Indigenous peoples live in more poverty compared to urban Australians, and they face limited access to work opportunities, education and social services. Poverty is the strongest factor in predicting food insecurity, as determined by the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR). The CAEPR found that a lack of money to keep up with growing food prices is the primary culprit of food insecurity, not a lack of food supply to the community.

What Organizations are Helping?

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) emerged in 2019 to protect Indigenous people and support ethical policy development and service delivery in their communities. Representatives of the NIAA have reached out to over 200 store managers that serve Indigenous peoples in order to fully understand their needs and how to best allocate funding and resources. The NIAA’s goal is to identify problems that directly affect Indigenous Australians and make them a priority in state, territory and national government agendas.

In addition, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has the task of closely monitoring the prices of essential products to guard against inflation in Indigenous communities. In recent investigations into the complaints of overpricing, the ACCC found that product prices reflect the increased cost of supplying inventory to the stores, not stores attempting to increase profits. Since many Indigenous communities live within hundreds of miles inside the Australian outback, swift deliveries to the area are a challenge. As a result, the Australian government is striving to improve the supply chain costs of rural vendors serving Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Australians face food insecurity at a disproportionate rate compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Many Indigenous peoples are struggling to feed their families as rural supermarket prices continue to rise and healthy options are few and far between. The Australian government and departments like the NIAA are partnering with Indigenous communities to create a cheaper and healthier food supply, combat food insecurity and protect the health and well-being of their Indigenous people.

– Mya Longacre
Photo: Pixabay

tuberculosis in KiribatiKiribati is one of the world’s smallest countries, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The 30 plus islands that together form Kiribati may be small and house a population of a little more than 100,000 people, but Kiribati is modernizing every day. The country only became fully independent in 1979 after a history of colonialism, and it joined the U.N. in 1999. Today, one of the biggest threats it faces is tuberculosis (TB). Of all the neighboring pacific island countries, Kiribati has the highest incidence of tuberculosis with a report of 349 incidents per 100,000 in 2018. While tuberculosis is endemic in Kiribati, the situation is far from hopeless. New scientific approaches to diagnosing and treating tuberculosis are making it possible to eradicate the disease in the future.

Tuberculosis and Overcrowding

Tuberculosis is directly related to overcrowding. While there are 33 total islands of Kiribati, only 20 of these islands are inhabited. Moreover, almost all of these islands are very sparsely inhabited, with around 64,000 inhabitants living on the main atoll, Tarawa. Though the nation does not boast a large overall population, the population density of the country is one of the highest in the world. Tarawa has a population density on par with major cities, like Tokyo and Hong Kong. This high population density means that most households in Kiribati are vastly overcrowded, creating a greater likelihood of spreading tuberculosis. Oftentimes, the housing lacks proper construction or proper ventilation, which also impacts the spread of TB. On average, households in Tarawa have between eight and nine people in them.

Tuberculosis and Diabetes

Tuberculosis and diabetes are often co-morbid illnesses causing major concern in Kiribati, which has one of the top 10 highest rates of diabetes in the world. In Kiribati, between one fourth and one-third of adults have diabetes, so the likelihood of having tuberculosis and diabetes is quite high. In fact, one-third of citizens with tuberculosis are also diagnosed with diabetes. This is so prevalent because diabetes can impact the treatment of tuberculosis. As a result, most of the citizens with both diabetes and TB have the infectious form of TB. This means that they pose a greater risk of spreading the illness to other members of the community.

New Methods for Catching and Eliminating TB

While tuberculosis is a serious concern to citizens of Kiribati, there are groundbreaking efforts to speedily diagnose and treat tuberculosis. Addressing TB is one of the country’s top priorities. In conjunction with organizations like the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Kiribati has managed to acquire modern diagnostic tools like portable X-ray machines. In recent years, another strategy that targets specific “hotspot” areas has proved incredibly useful in diagnosing TB in the early stages. This process focuses on areas known to have the greatest likelihood of TB by using patterns from past years to locate the most at-risk communities. After locating these communities, citizens of the area participate in screening for TB. In 2019, during a hotspot case study, healthcare workers screened 3,891 people for tuberculosis in less than two weeks. Over the course of the 11 days, they diagnosed seven new cases.

A More Positive Future

In the past few years, the general fear of tuberculosis in Kiribati has greatly diminished. With the new systems in place to screen, diagnose and treat TB, citizens have become more aware of how to prevent the spread of disease. The new systems also allow more citizens who may be living in poverty or isolated areas to access treatment. Healthcare workers go directly into the villages within each hotspot, allowing citizens to easily walk to clinics for screening. At these clinics, they receive prevention tips, pamphlets and a better understanding of how to care for themselves and those around them.

Despite overcrowding and comorbidity with diabetes, the future of tuberculosis in Kiribati is looking up. With only 323 cases in 2018 after 745 new cases in 2007, the numbers are slowly decreasing. With increased awareness and prevention tactics, along with modern technology and hotspot screening, it is hoped that this trend will continue.

– Lucia Kenig-Ziesler
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Samoa

Located in the region of the world known as Oceania, the islands of Samoa make up a nation that has been able to successfully sustain its economy since gaining its independence from New Zealand in 1961. A nation known for its sacred family values, the island of roughly 195,000 citizens is largely dependent on its agricultural and fishing industries.

In recent years, the island nation has been highlighted in the media for its obesity epidemic, due to the nation’s low Per Capita Income of $5,965. This has caused many families to turn to cheap food products, which are usually high in calories, in order to survive. In spite of the nation’s ongoing struggle with its obesity issue, what may often be overlooked is how the media misrepresents Samoa.

History of Samoa: A Future with Promise

Samoa is a nation composed of citizens that have withstood colonization as well as threats from natural disasters, such as the 2009 earthquake in the Pacific that induced a tsunami. The nation’s current GDP is roughly $830 million, which is not a substantial amount of money for the economy.

However, in recent years, the nation has made several milestones that allude to economic progressions, such as joining the World Trade Organization. The nation has also advocated more for women’s rights by developing a quota system to ensure that more women receive the opportunity to participate in governmental affairs.

How the Media Misrepresents Samoa

Although Samoa has its domestic challenges to overcome, the island has long been producing some of the most talented athletes the world has ever seen. The media misrepresents Samoa by shedding light on the nation’s obesity epidemic, rather than on the athletic talent that has given a good reputation to the nation.

Samoa is referred to as “Football Island” because of the significant number of American NFL football players that come from there. Samoan men have been recognized for their athletic capabilities over the years and have been recruited to football and rugby teams in New Zealand, the United States and Australia.

Two such athletes are Jordan Cameron, who played for the Miami Dolphins, and Malcom Floyd, who played for the San Diego Chargers. Both men were nominated for the 2015 Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year Award.

Women have also made their mark in the sports industry. Women athletes have made history for Samoa by winning coveted sports awards. One such award, achieved by Sergeant Latoya N. Marshall, was the Female Athlete of the Year award by the All-Army Sports Office.

Another internationally-recognized female athlete is weightlifter Ele Opeloge, who brought attention to Samoa over the years for her weightlifting performances in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Opeloge was awarded a silver medal for her performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and continues to receive recognition from the media for her achievements.

Tourism: A Promising Industry

Another industry that remains promising for Samoa is the tourism industry. The nation hosts a natural, tropical scenery that attracts people from all over the world, and according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Samoan tourism makes up roughly $207.5 million of the nation’s GDP and 132,000 tourists visited the island nation in the year 2013 alone.

Oceanian culture has also gained a wider international influence, an influence that has the potential to attract more tourists to the region over time. One recent example is with the release of the widely successful Disney film “Moana,” an animation about a figurative princess from the island of Tahiti that has grossed over $600 million.

As Samoa continues to rise above its struggles with domestic obesity, a weak economy and threats from nature, the nation shows great promise. Several industries have brought the nation positive recognition in the international media, overshadowing the multiple ways that the media misrepresents Samoa.

– Lois Charm
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in New Zealand
Unlike other countries, New Zealand does not use an official poverty line. Generally speaking, the understanding is that with an income level set at 60% of median household disposable income after housing costs, it is reasonable to expect that this will prevent the worst effects of poverty.

It is also generally understood that poverty in New Zealand can entail hunger and food insecurity, poor health outcomes, reduced life expectancy, debt and poor housing. One in seven households in New Zealand experiences poverty, which includes about 230,000 children overall.

Māori and other Pacific peoples represent the majority of people living in persistent poverty in New Zealand, along with beneficiaries and single parents. Welfare benefits in New Zealand are not enough for someone to live on, much less with dignity.

Emergency assistance resources are stretched, and housing assistance is not always adequate. The gap between the rich and the poor is still large and not shrinking anytime soon.

One of the prevailing myths in New Zealand and other places is that those on welfare or other benefits have an inherent lazy character and lack a work ethic. While unemployment remains high, many jobs available to those on benefits are insecure and do not pay as well as full-time permanent jobs. Furthermore, those on benefits often deal with outside factors, like health issues and disabilities, that make working a job difficult.

The approximately 230,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand may add economic and social cost to New Zealand society later on because their problems were not addressed. Many are at risk for further health problems both physical and mental and have a higher risk of having to be involved in the justice system. Currently, this costs $2 billion or so every year.

Child poverty in New Zealand remains the most pressing issue of social justice. However, if there are people willing to help, there is still reason for hope.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Pixabay


As of 2016, Fiji, a country in Oceania, consists of more than 300 islands and is home to more than 915,000 people. Hunger in Fiji is one of the nation’s leading problems, posing a threat to the large population. Here are five facts about hunger in Fiji.

Hunger in Fiji

  1. According to Half United, an organization committed to fighting hunger in many countries, more than 250,000 people live in poverty. This number equates to one in every four people struggling to put food on the table.
  2. More than 50 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water, and even fewer have access to adequate sanitation. Conditions have advanced, as more than 95 percent of the total population has reportedly experienced improved drinking water sources and more than 91 percent of the total population has seen improved sanitation facility access.
  3. The strongest tropical cyclone hit Fiji in February 2016, killing 43 people and causing a national emergency. The cyclone resulted in the washing away of crops and left thousands of residents homeless. With such detrimental effects, Cyclone Winston has contributed significantly to hunger in Fiji.
  4. According to a UNICEF report, under-five malnutrition exists as an “indicator of poverty and hunger.” The rate of undernourished children in Fiji has declined from 15 percent in 1980 to six percent in 2009. Reducing the prevalence of under-five malnutrition remains a priority of the government in order to eradicate poverty and hunger in Fiji.
  5. Young girls are nearly twice as likely to be stunted as boys as a consequence of long-term insufficient nutrient intake. Stunting is defined as low height for age and often results in delayed motor development, impaired cognitive function and poor school performance.

Poverty and hunger continue to affect the people of Fiji, but fortunately, organizations such as The World Food Programme (WFP) and Half United provide vulnerable families with the necessary assistance and resources to get back on their feet.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr