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

Relocation on Limited Land 

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

In the next 10 years, an estimated 676 villages will have to move, which will increase the number of unemployed islanders. As unemployment increases, those who live above the poverty line are at risk of falling below the global margin of $1.90 per day. The relocation of one village costs an estimated $445,000.

Education and Health Care

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

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

Prospects of Hope

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

– Natalie Williams
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Fiji
Despite significant progress, poverty in Fiji remains a serious problem. In 2013, almost 300,000 Fijians or 34% of its population lived below the national poverty line. Interestingly, among middle-income nations, Fiji’s national poverty rate trends high whereas its extreme poverty rate—which is 1.4%—is comparatively lower. Still, there is cautious optimism when considering the future of poverty in Fiji. After all, as a result of wide-scale efforts by both the government and various organizations, the poverty rate dropped from 40% in the early 2000s. In 2020, these groups are continuing to work toward a poverty-free future in Fiji.

5 Organizations Fighting Poverty in Fiji

  1. Caritas Australia: An originally Catholic organization that works across the Pacific, Caritas runs a variety of programs targeting the effects of poverty in Fiji. An example of one of its projects is the Tutu Rural Training Centre, where farmers learn a multitude of skills through a four-year course relating to agriculture technology. When Cyclone Evan hit in 2012—which caused $312 million of damage and killed 14 people—the center also provided plants for people to start regrowing their farms. Another program is the People’s Community Network, which works to improve the lives of squatters throughout Fiji and promote self-sufficiency. Thus far, the project has helped 500 families secure land.
  2. The World Bank: The World Bank has perhaps acted as the primary player in alleviating poverty in Fiji. The organization has provided loans to the Fijian government since the 1970s for more than 13 large-scale projects on issues such as improving transportation infrastructure and natural disaster relief. In 2019, the World Bank announced it would start loaning over $21 million annually for such projects with 0% interest. This money has ultimately been invaluable in helping Fiji become a more technologically advanced country and providing critical economic opportunities to the Fijian people.
  3. Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS): The umbrella body of almost 500 grassroots organizations across Fiji, FCOSS has worked throughout the country to connect different groups and their projects together while coordinating with the government to ensure maximum productivity. Some of the programs that the organization embarked on to fight poverty include the Rural Women Initiative for Development & Education, which helps women obtain economic freedom, and HelpAge, which provides services to elderly individuals the state often ignores.
  4. Peace Corps: The Peace Corps, an American volunteer organization that the U.S. government runs, has worked in impoverished communities in Fiji since 1968, sending more than 2,529 volunteers. These volunteers have worked on a variety of projects throughout this tenure, working primarily on conservation and resource management, teaching sanitation and safe water practices and helping communities with economic development. These projects have proved invaluable in these poor communities. For example, in 2010, the Peace Corps conducted a large-scale study and found that 87% of host communities saw improvement in their sanitation practices and 90% reported better environmental and livelihood security. Furthermore, when teaching business practices, 80% learned habits that helped them in their everyday lives. Clearly, the Peace Corps is providing crucial assistance to poor communities in Fiji.
  5. Habitat for Humanity Fiji: Another international organization fighting poverty in Fiji is Habitat for Humanity. The organization builds homes in Fiji where almost 140,000 people lived in poor housing conditions. Habitat for Humanity has served a large number of homes. The organization is evidently mitigating the effects of poverty in Fiji, although Fiji requires more work.

Clearly, while poverty in Fiji remains a serious problem, there are a variety of organizations leading the fight against it. With these organizations’ continued aid, poverty in Fiji will hopefully become a part of the past.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Fiji
Fiji is a South Pacific country made up hundreds of islands that is home to just over 900,000 people. While some aspects of development show progress, there is still room for improvement in others. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about living conditions in Fiji.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Fiji

  1. Poverty. More than half the population of Fiji live below the poverty line with more than 400,000 people living on $25 a week. The elderly and those with an incomplete education are most susceptible to conditions of poverty. The United Nations Development Program has outlined nine recommendations targeted at reducing poverty in all Pacific island nations including Fiji. The report notes that it would take just 1.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Fiji’s capital city, Savu, in order to fund a grant for all children under 5 years of age, and that such grants would lead to a 10 percent decrease in the number of households living in poverty. The UNDP report also highlights how a similar strategy targeting health care for pregnant women and the elderly would yield beneficial results.
  2. Access to Clean Water. In Fiji, 12 percent of the population or 220,000 people lack regular access to safe water. As a result, too many households are at risk of contracting water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever. The government has started a campaign to encourage safer hygiene and sanitation practices with the slogan: “Boil It, Cook It, Peel It, or Forget It.”
  3. Climate Change. In Fiji, the poor are affected most harshly by climate change. The sea level is projected to rise 17-35 cm by 2065. If this projection turns out to be accurate, that means 30 percent of Fijians live in areas that will be underwater in the next 40 years. An estimated $4.5 billion over 10 years is needed to prevent and mitigate the damage of climate change. The World Bank notes that initiatives must focus on “building inclusive and resilient towns and cities; improving infrastructure services; climate-smart agriculture and fisheries; conserving ecosystems and building socioeconomic resilience.”
  4. Leading Causes of Death. Nutritional diseases such as ischemic heart disease, diabetes and stroke are now the three leading causes of death in Fiji. The numbers of deaths that can be attributed to heart disease are more than double those which can be attributed to diabetes. The rise of heart disease in Fijians can be directly connected to activities like smoking (26.8 percent for men and 7.8 percent for women), and a lack of physical activity. However, dietary problems in Fiji (such as low-quality foods lacking vitamins and minerals) are the biggest contributing factor to Fiji’s nutritional diseases. The government has issued a food and health guideline, recommending exercise at least 30 minutes a day and the reduction of sugary drinks as easy solutions for Fijians.
  5. Financial Literacy. Over 70 percent of people living in Pacific Island countries like Fiji, do not have bank accounts. However, in recent years, there has been a big push to encourage financial literacy through initiatives like AZN’s program MoneyMinded which teaches money management skills online. The program — which is free to all users — has reached 12,000 people to date.
  6. Unemployment. The unemployment rate in Fiji averaged 7.1 percent from 1982 until 2017 and stood at 6.31 percent in 2017. In September of 2018, Hon. Jone Usamate announced the National Employment Policy (NEP). This is an initiative to create better access to credit for those who earn their living in the informal economy, promote access to overseas jobs, encourage and educate young Fijians on entrepreneurship. The program also strives to increase access to employment opportunities for mothers in Fiji. The current statistics for labor force participation currently stands at 76.4 percent for men compared with 37.4 percent for women. Of note, one in four women are searching for work, compared to one in six men. The NEP encourages educators and employers to work together to provide more marketable training for those seeking to enter the job market.
  7. Education. The government has made education a top priority in its budget allocation in recent years as educational attainment rates remain low. The National Topper Scheme (NTS), working to combat this problem by providing scholarships to students at the top of their class. The scholarship only covers areas of study that the Fijian Government considers to be a priority for its country such as medicine and engineering. About 70 percent of Year 13 students go to university with NTS scholarships. In addition to the NTS scholarship, the Fijian government also offers tertiary education loans.
  8. Crime. The most common types of crimes in Fiji are property crimes like burglary and theft. Crime is most prevalent in the city of Savu. Violent crimes are common but occur at a lower rate than they do in most American cities. In an effort to reduce these crimes, the Fijian police work with civilians in communities, and organizations, to expand their watch, to report suspicious behavior and to help improve safety. This serves to better integrate police work into the community. Murder rates have also fallen by nearly half in the past 10 years.
  9. Maternal Mortality. Maternal mortality rates have fallen from 156/100,000 live births in 1970 to 26 out of 100,000 births in 2000. There has been a 37 percent drop in the maternal mortality rate, which corresponds with a 44 percent drop in mortality for children and 40 percent for infants since 1990.
  10. Reproductive Health. According to the Ministry of Public Health, only half the population regularly uses birth control. The main problem for people is access, and Fijians in rural areas have the hardest time getting birth control. All mothers are given information about different contraceptive methods postnatally while in a hospital, and birth control and condoms have been made widely available to those who live in urban areas.

As these top 10 facts about living conditions in Fiji indicate, while improvements have been made, there are still a number of areas to be addressed to raise the standard of living for Fijians.

– Sarah Bradley
Photo: Flickr

Improving Literacy Rates
has a literacy rate of 33.6 percent that needs to be addressed. Despite many criticisms, Dr. Mahendra Reddy, Minister for Education, argues that Fiji had started improving literacy rates by including libraries in schools.

Dr. Rosi Lagi, a university academic, argues that in order to improve the low literacy rate, Fiji has to improve the way students are taught at schools. In particular, he criticizes the teaching style of many teachers and suggests that teachers be more creative in drawing the attentions of students in class.

Fiji has been receiving aid from the EU, which has significantly helped education programs in Fiji. Fiji and the EU originally established a firm diplomatic relation in 1975. The EU heavily supported Fiji after Cyclone Winston in February 2016 with the restoration.

Fijian government believes that education is the pathway to prosperity for any country and hopes to build a knowledge-based society that will lead the country to be competitive in the world market.

Therefore, the government has provided educational opportunities for Fijian youths to develop their future. The government also ensures that every child in Fiji goes to school and promotes many programs within government policies and the Ministry of Education.

However, recently a Fiji Minister has brought the issue of discrimination against women educators to attention. Rosy Akbar, Fijian Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, argues that there is still a fear of letting women move forward in the education sector of Fiji. She argues that there are still attitudes against promotions, where many would prefer to have male principals than female principals.

Fiji strives to become a knowledge-based society where people will have knowledge of all factors of production and aspects of life in the society. In order to achieve the goal, the Prime Minister of Fiji strongly believes that the future will be determined by how they nurture and educate the children now.

They argue that the people of Fiji are given access to all forms of education based on fairness, equality and quality. Although there still exists deep-rooted conservative ideas among few, Fiji is gradually changing its education system to improve the quality of lives of its people in the future and to grow competitively in a global world.

Gulyn Kim

Photo: Flickr