New Zealand Child Poverty Level Below OECD Standards; Gov't Urged to Act Immediately

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A lobby group working against child poverty encourages New Zealanders not to accept the statistic that one in four children in the country is poor. Child Poverty Action (CPAG) said in a recently released report that children's health could be "radically improved" if New Zealand will address the cause of poverty.

CPAG co-convener Janfrie Wakim said New Zealand tolerates a higher level of poverty for children than the other demographic groups. Ms Wakim believes the country can reduce child poverty just like what has been done with elderly people.

According to the report, New Zealand's investment for the welfare of children is low based on OECD standards. The group made nine recommendations that would improve the lives of children living in poverty.

The government is asked to design a plan to reduce child poverty which includes setting targets, measurable outcomes and regular reporting requirements. The report also recommends providing free primary health care for children and a national child nutrition strategy.

From 240,000 Kiwi children in 2010, the number has grown to 300,000 in 2010 - the highest number of poor children since 2001. This number has dropped to 285,000 which is not as high as 300,000 but still 20,000 more than the previously reported 265,000.

In a previous report by Child Poverty Monitor, it found that one of six children is surviving without access to basic necessities. The report said the children may be missing out on meals and doctor's visits, and could be sleeping on the floor.

According to the new rigorous measure, the number of children admitted to hospitals because of poor living conditions is increasing. The data shows that tens of thousands of children are being treated in hospitals every year due to infectious and respiratory diseases linked with overcrowded and damp homes.

New Zealand Children's Commissioner and Hawke's Bay pediatrician Russell Wills said he sees young children from crowded homes that are admitted to the hospital because of skin infections. Dr Wills said sick children with poverty-related illnesses are filling up the wards.

New Zealand's Green Party has welcomed the recommendations of the report and urged the government to accept its recommendations. Health spokesman Kevin Hague said the party has several solutions to aid young Kiwis, but the government's actions have been long overdue.  

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