Child Poverty in New Zealand

According to UNICEF, one in five children in New Zealand live in income poverty. About 8 percent of these children face severe hardships. Disturbingly, these figures on child poverty in New Zealand have hardly changed in the past decade.

Poverty in New Zealand should by no means be confused with poverty in a developing or underdeveloped country. When we talk about child poverty in New Zealand, it is in comparison to developed nations, particularly the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) nations. While a lack of economic and financial stimuli are the primary reasons for poverty in a developing country, these are in a state of equilibrium for a developed nation like New Zealand. Any efforts to address poverty are met by social, cultural and economic forces pushing people into poverty. Poverty in New Zealand is mostly entrenched in provincial parts of the country, where it coincides with high rates of drug dependency, poor health outcomes, high crimes and multi-generational cycles of disadvantage. Incremental changes at the margins would not significantly impact levels of poverty; a “circuit breaker” approach is needed.

Having said that, within New Zealand’s context, poverty exists despite historically high employment rates and excellent tax breaks and benefits. The forces driving poverty in New Zealand are not as simple as unemployment or inadequate state benefits.

Child poverty in particular imposes a considerable burden on a nation’s economy, and if left unresolved for a long time can severely damage its long-term prosperity. New Zealand currently spends upwards of $6 billion per year on remedial interventions. Failure to alleviate child poverty now will undermine the country’s achievements in areas like reduction in child abuse, total educational attainment and improvement in skill levels while hurting its longstanding economic advantage.

In 2016, when UNICEF’s Innocenti Report was published, it provided an assessment of child well-being, neonatal mortality, suicide, mental health, drunkenness and teen pregnancy across the OECD countries and the European Union. New Zealand was ranked 34 out of the 41 countries assessed and was in the bottom quarter for many of the measures used. In addition, New Zealand also has the highest rate of adolescent suicide of any country in the report, about two and a half times the average of 6.1. This humbling report on child poverty in New Zealand opened up a country-wide debate, with Kiwis demanding solutions from the government.

In 2012, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner submitted its report detailing 78 recommendations, each addressing some form of child poverty. Most recently, in order to contribute to the national conversation on poverty reduction, TacklingPovertyNZ conducted a series of workshops and came up with a list of seven suggestions to tackle poverty. These suggestions include simplifying and standardizing the benefit system, giving more benefits to regions of high need, revisiting the role of the state as the employer of last resort, investing in “hard” regional infrastructure,
investing significantly in mental health, targeting behavioral drivers of poverty and introducing asset-based assistance for high risk children.

While these suggestions seem credible and executable, it is often the case that credible policy options are always scrutinized under the political microscope of feasibility, lack of profile or degree of freedom from the status quo. Most policies that are known to work and are shown to be politically feasible have either been implemented or are under consideration. However, it is only by looking at policies that lie outside the range of political feasibility that we stand a realistic chance of identifying new ideas that might actually make a significant difference.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr

With 70 percent of the world’s opium produced in Pakistan, it seems almost inevitable that “an estimated 6.7 million adults have used drugs in the past year.”

In the past, drug abuse did not burden Pakistan to this extent. Nearly 30 years ago, the government confined poppy production to the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. This greatly reduced the production of poppy, from nearly “800 tons in 1980, to nine tons by 1999.”

However, the Pakistani borders became more vulnerable. Today, 40 percent of the global opium supply travels through Pakistan to reach its final destination. Cesar Guedes represents the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and reports on the rising drug abuse in Pakistan.

According to Guedes, Pakistan drug traffickers have now cultivated a profitable local market within their own nation; addiction reaches all ages from teenagers to the elderly. As many as 4 million Pakistanis regularly use hashish. The fluid borders exacerbate the issue, with high poppy cultivation in nearby Afghanistan. This provides Pakistanis with a steady source of heroin.
Additional challenges include abject poverty and severely limited addiction treatment programs. Though more than 4 million Pakistanis would benefit from a regulated drug treatment program, the Express Tribune reports “just 1,990 beds available [in Pakistan] for drug treatment… are able to cater to less than 30,000 drug users a year.”

The rising tide of drug abuse in this country has an additional consequence: the spread of HIV/AIDS. Intravenous drug use ranks considerably high in Pakistan, “with 430,000 people estimated to be injecting drugs,” reports Mussadaq of the Express Tribune.

“IDUs [injecting drug users] contract HIV by sharing infected syringes. We are afraid that HIV/AIDS can spread to the general population through them,” claims Syed Mohammad Javid, manager of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP).

Previously, no syringe exchange program has existed in Pakistan and the sharing of contaminated syringes continues to be rampant. 73 percent of those currently injecting drugs report sharing syringes.

Yet today, the United Nations works in cooperation with other relief agencies to implement the needle exchange program. At this time, however, it remains a pilot program for Peshawar. If the results are positive, the UN and its partners could expand to include other Pakistani cities.

Pakistan has reported 9,000 confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS, according to Javid. The World Health Organization predicts that the number is actually much higher, estimating as many as 100,000 confirmed cases.

In response, the United Nations AIDS country coordinator for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Oussama Tawil, has lead an effort to establish more treatment centers in the region. “UNAIDS is in the process of establishing 20 wards for detoxification and rehabilitation of IDUs,” reports Tawil.

The program aims to enlist local nongovernmental organizations in locating drug abusers for detoxification. Moreover, the UN aims to diagnose and treat those infected with HIV in Pakistan. Overall, the program aims to stem this rampant use of contaminated syringes and treat those who suffered from the practice. To do so, health professionals should treat addicts with empathy rather than judgment. Treating just one addict  helps to protect those across the country from contracting HIV.

– Ellery Spahr

Sources: Inter Press Service, The Express Tribune

Photo: Flickr

adams family
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports while drug use is stabilizing in industrialized countries, it is increasing in developing nations around the health and security of a nation than drug use in developed countries. Poor nations may not be able to handle drug abuse because of their underdeveloped boarders.

There has been a growth of heroine use in Eastern Africa and cocaine use in West and South Africa.  South East Asian and the Middle East are experiencing increased production and use of synthetic drugs (synthetic drugs include synthetic marijuana, MDMA, and “bath salts”.)

The Economist reports that Afghanistan is the heart of a multi-billion-dollar drug network smuggling heroine.  Tajikistan, part of the former Soviet Union, borders countries economy.  The majority of the country’s population lives on less than $2 a day and often do not have power to heat their houses in the winter. However, the capital city of Dushanbe is full of mansions and flashy cars, signs that the city is profiting from the drug trade.

If is hard to find data on illicit drug use in developing countries but the use of opiates (heroine, opium, morphine) is likely to be the highest in Eastern Europe and Central, South and South East Asia where the drug is produced. Most opiate users, 7.8 million, live in and around Afghanistan and Myanmar, both major opiate-producing countries.

The World Health Organization reports that alcohol abuse and tobacco use have also risen dramatically in Eastern Europe and South and Southeast Asia. Research on the social and environmental causes of substance abuse has been lower than in the developed world but early research and case studies point to urbanization, poverty, migration, technological change, and interest in drug production as contributing factors.

Historically imprisonment has been the most common solution to illicit drug use and addiction. However research shows that imprisoning drug users is not very effective. The medicalization of drug use and the medical and therapeutic treatment of drug use is much more effective. Unfortunately developing countries face many barriers when implementing the medical treatment of drug addiction. Developing countries do not have the financial recourses or health infrastructure to provide programs like harm reduction initiatives (clean needles, needle drop off sites), drug residential rehab programs, or oral methadone.  There is also a moral view of drug use held by many people in poor countries that drug addiction is a personal choice and people should assume responsibility for it. These countries are more likely to take punitive action in dealing with drug use rather than treatment or harm reduction.

Elizabeth Brown

Sources: World Health Organization, Elements Behavioral Health, The Economist, The White House

By phentermine side effects or learn what are the side effects of taking phentermine