Posts

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Vanuatu
Vanuatu is a small nation located in Oceania, a region near the South Pacific Ocean. It is an archipelago nation made up of approximately 80 islands and is best known for its touristy capital, Port Vila. Much like many developing nations, issues are living conditions are not black and white. Instead, they are rife with complexity and nuance. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Vanuatu

  1. First on the list of top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu is that it is comprised of more than 80 islands, many being volcanic islands, covering more than 1,300 kilometers.  Vanuatu’s population is estimated to be 299,882 people. Most of the islands are not close in proximity, and dangerous waters and unpredictable weather make travel between the islands difficult. This creates problems with securing access to vital places, such as hospitals, especially for people who do not live in Port Vila. Vanuatu’s vast geography also hinders government delivery services because access to the smaller islands is limited. Remote villages are the primary standard of living as citizens have discovered the best habitable locations and resources in this volcanic nation.
  2. Homes on the islands of Vanuatu are primarily made of branches, grass and leaves woven together to provide good protection from frequent heavy rains, but they can be unstable in more severe weather conditions.  Certain natural disasters, such as tornadoes, can cause these homes to be stripped away completely. This especially became clear after Cyclone Pam hit the Vanuatu islands in 2015. 90 percent of Vanuatu’s buildings were destroyed, including many homes.  Many people were left homeless after this natural disaster hit. Many of the islands are still in the process of rebuilding after the effects of Cyclone Pam.
  3. The economy is agriculture-based.  Therefore, most citizens of Vanuatu earn their living through means such as small scale farming. Agriculture is Vanuatu’s biggest industry, and 75 percent of its population depends on it for a living.  The domestic sales of agricultural products are not as strong as exportation sales. When Cyclone Pam hit the region in 2015, approximately 64.1 percent of Vanuatu’s GDP was heavily impacted since most of its crops were damaged or destroyed from the cyclone.
  4. The beef industry is one of the most popular and profitable industries in Vanuatu.   In fact, Vanuatu is the only Pacific country capable of exporting beef. The GDP percentage of animals is only six percent.  While beef is not the main meat consumption product in Vanuatu; pork is, it is the most well-known and lucrative agricultural item exported from the small country.
  5. Since rainwater and freshwater sources are the basis of survival on these islands, the nation makes maintaining reliable and clean water a priority. However, clean water is not always easy to access. For example, Tanna is one of the most inhabited islands of Vanuatu, but it has trouble getting and sustaining clean water. Recently, a pilot project was developed that converts sunlight, air and rainwater into freshwater that is drinkable. ADB and Zero Mass Water created and implemented the solution by installing 20 solar panels with safe drinking-water technology.  Each solar panel provides three to five liters for a total of approximately 100 liters of clean water each day. Vanuatu citizens with no direct access to a clean water supply system are being aided by the implementation of this project.
  6. In March 2015, Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu hard. Eleven people were killed, and the cyclone caused major damage to homes and facilities such as hospitals, schools, etc. The damage caused by this cyclone showed Vanuatu’s fragility when it comes to natural disasters. Multiple aid agencies, especially from New Zealand and Australia, were quick to donate money to Vanuatu in order to help them recover from the destruction. Since then, Vanuatu has continued to receive disaster aid funds.
  7. Australia is a major economic partner of Vanuatu and has recently donated around $66.2 million for developmental assistance. With Australia as it’s biggest financial partner, Vanuatu has become more financially stable. Australia also provides plenty of tourism (which is one of Vanuatu’s biggest markets). In addition, in 2016, Australia committed to a support program to help the residents of Vanuatu handle issues associated with climate change. Australia pledged 300 million dollars over four years to the Pacific region to respond to and prepare for natural disasters and climate change.
  8. The Ministry of Climate Change and Natural Disaster has recently launched an initiative that aims to give Vanuatu 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. This plan is known as the Nationally Determined Contribution. Vanuatu is hoping that this initiative will be the first step in mitigating climate change within its own land.
  9. Education faces limitations in Vanuatu because schooling is not mandatory.  Only 60 percent of children graduate to secondary school. School is taught in either English or French. The literacy rate is only 64 percent, but most of the literate citizens are under age 35. In remote island locales, schools can be temporary structures built from wood and leaves and are affected by storms and weather conditions. Since education has not experienced major improvements, organizations such as the Vanuatu Education Support Program was created in 2012 to better the education system. It aims to provide support for the Ministry of Education and Training’s corporate plan and the Vanuatu Education Sector Strategy. One of the solutions includes “improving literacy and numeracy from kindergarten to year 3.”
  10. The health care system in the Vanuatu islands suffers from a lack of facilities and qualified staff.  There are five public hospitals and one private hospital for the 80 plus islands. Two are on the modernized islands of Port Vila and Luganville. The doctor to patient ratio is 8/10,000. If someone is in dire condition, they often are flown to other countries such as Australia or New Zealand which can make an emergency situation more complicated and dangerous.  All pharmaceuticals are imported from other countries.

This concludes the top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu. This archipelagic nation is very independent and allows its citizens to choose how they want to live, but, due to the structure of a nation of small islands, this way of life comes with setbacks.  The citizens of Vanuatu have seen some small improvements in their way of life, and with the positive aspects of this country, improvements can continue with the right steps.

Haley Saffren
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 percent 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.

  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 declared 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

Poverty in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea in Oceania. It is the largest country in the Pacific region and one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries, as exemplified by its nearly 7.1 million people and 850 indigenous spoken languages and accompanying cultures. There is a pervasive belief, particularly among political elites, that poverty in Papua New Guinea is a myth.

 

The Reality of Poverty in Papua New Guinea

 

This stems from the notion that all natives of Papua New Guinea are landowners and therefore have access to lives of “subsistence affluence” and a wealth of resources, including forestry, agriculture, fisheries, minerals and biodiversity.

While it is true that nearly 75 percent of natives survive off of subsistence farming and Papua New Guinea does have many natural resources, it is still ranked as a lower-middle income country. The poverty may better be described as a “poverty of opportunity,” which entails a lack of educational and occupational opportunities for its citizens.

Only about 50 percent of adults in Papua New Guinea are literate, while 25 percent of children are unable to attend school.

Healthcare is another problem for Papua New Guinea. The average life expectancy for those within the country is 63 years.

Reports from the 2004 and 2009 National Millennium Development Goals show that Papua New Guinea had difficulty meeting its Millennium Development Goal targets, particularly maternal health, infant mortality, literacy and treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Many peripheral health facilities have been closed in recent years and those that are open are often severely underfunded or understaffed. Nearly two-fifths of health centers and rural health posts throughout the country have no electricity or access to necessary medical equipment.

Part of the problem with getting to school, work and hospitals have to do with Papua New Guinea’s infrastructure. In rural areas, where nearly 88 percent of the population resides, there are few roads or means of transportation to get to schools or places of employment. Inaccessibility to roads is a leading contributor to poverty in Papua New Guinea.

The poorest communities in Papua New Guinea have to travel 75 percent longer than the richer communities to reach the closest mode of motorized transportation. The average walk for a rural resident in Papua New Guinea is about 90 minutes to reach a rural road, while those most impoverished areas often have to walk four hours or more. Additionally, only seven percent of the population has access to electricity and water filtration.

Poverty in Papua New Guinea has also led to human development lagging behind. The country currently ranks 156 out of 186 countries in the 2013 Human Development Index (HDI). Gender equality is a significant issue facing the people of Papua New Guinea, as the country ranks in the bottom 10 countries in the Gender Equality Index.

Violations of women’s rights are nearly systemic throughout the country, with nearly two-thirds of women having experienced violence. Women and girls also have substantially less access to basic education and healthcare than their male counterparts.

Other countries have not done much to alleviate poverty in Papua New Guinea. Many highly developed nations have used the land’s resources, promising payout to the residents they displace and not making good on their word. Many citizens never see a profit from these non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

This exploitation leads to climate change and environmental degradation in the country and increases its vulnerability to natural hazards. Further, Papua New Guinea is often used as a source, destination and transit country for individuals subjected to human trafficking — particularly for prostitution and forced labor.

However, progress is being made. The Asia Development Bank (ADB) has proposed supporting poverty reduction in Papua New Guinea by aiding the country in improving internal and external transport links and enhancing energy access. The ADB also seeks to remove core infrastructure blockages to provide economic opportunity and access to basic social services.

The organization wants to boost job creation as well as work with small businesses to increase profits. ADB will also continue to promote participation by women in the workplace and attempt to mainstream gender equality in all projects they have a hand in.

Internally, in early 2013, the government of Papua New Guinea introduced a fee-free education policy up to the ninth grade to expand access to basic education. It also implemented a free healthcare policy. The National Health Plan (2010 – 2020) aims to fight high infant and maternal mortality rates.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr