Up to 40 percent of Pacific households living in poverty
A World Bank report has found up to 40 percent of households in the Pacific are living in hardship, and the region is particularly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks.
A World Bank report has found 20 to 40 percent of households in the Pacific are living in hardship, unable to meet their basic needs of food, housing, clothing, fuel and medicine.
The report, Hardship and Vulnerability in the Pacific Island Countries, launched in Suva today, looks at issues being faced in the region and recommends how governments can best deal with them.
Mary Baines filed this report:
The World Bank economist in charge of the report, Melissa Adelman, says while extreme poverty is rare, hardship is a major issue across the Pacific.
MELISSA ADELMAN: Based on household surveys, approximately 20 to 40 percent of households in the majority of Pacific Island countries are unable to meet their basic needs. Papua New Guinea has the highest percentage, about 40 percent of households are living in hardship.
The report draws on evidence from Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Kiribati, Fiji and Vanuatu. Ms Adelman says Pacific nations are uniquely vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks, as a result of countries' small size, geographical isolation and high exposure to natural disasters.
She says when these shocks occur, they threaten to push families and sometimes entire communities further into hardship.
MELISSA ADELMAN: Households in the Pacific are uniquely vulnerable to a whole range of shocks. Of the top 20 countries in terms of losses of the percentage of GDP due to natural disasters, eight of those countries are Pacific Island countries.
Ms Adelman says the Pacific is also facing a growing threat from non-communicable diseases, which are expensive to treat and incur long-term disability costs for households. The report recommends more government investment in the management of long-term risks, including NCDs and natural disasters, and more effective old-age and disability pensions. The Head of the School of Government, Development and International Affairs at the University of the South Pacific, Vijay Naidu, says the report gives an opportunity for governments to respond and put in place stronger policies. He says until recently, some people have denied the existence of poverty in the region.
VIJAY NAIDU: As international financial institutions begin to show to the elite in the Pacific that there is indeed a lot of poverty, hardship and health issues and other kinds of negative social factors emerging, hopefully there will be greater traction. This will lead to discussion, debate, awareness and hopefully policies in order to increase peoples' resilience.
But Dame Carol Kidu, who served as minister of community affairs in two Papua New Guinea administrations, says policy and legislative change has already been put into place. She says implementing it is the real challenge.
DAME CAROL KIDU: Sometimes not enough budgetary support for implementation, sometimes a breakdown in the implementation mechanisms. To actually address this whole issue, we have to continue strengthening a public service, increasing our internal budgets not just development budgets, into these areas that will address hardship and poverty.
Dame Carol Kidu says PNG needs to keep working on a social protection framework to look after the elderly, severely disabled and children at risk, as most households would have someone in that category. But she says combatting poverty and hardship is extremely complex, and there is no quick solution.
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