Monday, January 24, 2011

Report to UN: Government Fails Child Poverty and Child Health

Waitemata Unite is skeptical about the ability of the United Nations to save the children of the world-indeed The UN has itself has a poor record with children. It was responsible for about a million children's deaths during the Iraq sanctions; its "peace-keepers" have engaged in rape,trafficking and prostitution of women and children in several countries ; and blue-helmeted UN soldiers are hated and feared by the local populace in Haiti.
Nevertheless the UN declaration on the Rights of the Child is a good benchmark by which to measure the status of the children of Aotearoa. New Zealand is failing badly.

Here is an excellent report from the Child Poverty Action group to the United Nations about the the poverty and health of New Zealand children:

Child Poverty and Child Health
Failing our commitments to children in New Zealand in 2010
M. Claire Dale, Susan St John, Innes Asher & Olaf Adam
on behalf of Child Poverty Action Group
Working Paper
July 2010
Published as supporting paper for the ACYA report
to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

“Children and Youth in Aotearoa 2010”
Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa Incorporated

M.Claire Dale, Susan St John, Innes Asher, & Olaf Adam.1

Executive Summary
This working paper is to form part of the report “Children and Youth in Aotearoa 2010” to the United Nations
Committee on the Rights of the Child, prepared by Action for Children and Youth Aotearo Inc. (ACYA).
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) believes that Aotearoa New Zealand fails to meet its commitments under
the convention in a number of areas, in particular income adequacy and health but also education and nondiscrimination.
The underlying issue is increasing income inequality and a consequent high number of children living in
poverty and severe hardship, in poor housing conditions, with limited access to primary health care. Our
research found that children from low income households in New Zealand are multiple times more likely to
suffer from large variety of diseases than their more affluent peers. These inequalities are most evident in
hospital admissions for relatively common diseases such as Rheumatic fever (28 times), Bronchiectasis (15
times), serious skin infection (5 times) and Tuberculosis (5 times).
Whilst these facts are well established. our evidence suggests that health inequalities are increasing rather
than decreasing, breaching Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the
convention), every child’s inherent right to life. Such inequalities also breach Article 24 of the convention
which grants children the right to “...enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health...”, where health
outcomes of least deprived children serve as benchmark.
Ethnic disparities are similarly evident, which breaches Article 2. States Parties agree to ensure children are
protected against all forms of discrimination, yet Maori and Pasifika children disproportionately suffer higher
hospitalisation rates than New Zealand European/Pakeha.
In 2005, 170,000 New Zealand children lived in families earning less than 50% of the median household
income. New Zealand is outperformed by a number of countries with a much lower GDP per capita, i.e. Czech
Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary and Korea. Widespread child poverty undermines children’s right to an
“adequate standard of living” as per Article 27 of the convention. In 2007 figures 50% of the median income
equates to $355 per week for a single parent, an amount considered insufficient to cover essential living cost.
As a direct result of poverty many children lack basics such as adequate nutrition or warm and dry housing.
New Zealand has the second worst child health and safety record amongst the 25 leading OECD countries as
measured in child deaths caused by infant deaths, immunisation rates and accidental deaths (OECD). These
measures, to a large extent related to poverty, result in a failure to meet Article 5 of the convention.
1 Dr M.Claire Dale, Research Fellow in the Department of Economics, Dr Susan St John, Associate Professor of Economics, and Dr Innes
Asher, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Auckland, are Executive Members of Child Poverty Action Group. Olaf Adam is
a Post Graduate student at the University of Auckland Business School and researcher for Child Poverty Action Group. We thank Dr Mike
O’Brien, Professor of Social Work at Massey University for his helpful critique.
CPAG asserts that child poverty in New Zealand is a consequence of political choices and inaction, not an
economic accident. As such, this breaches Article 3 of the convention, and CPAG hold successive governments
responsible for the continuing discrimination against children from low income families.
The current social welfare system is insufficient to provide for an “adequate standard of living” for many
parents, who are unable to provide it themselves and as such New Zealand fails in its responsibilities under
Article 26 and Article 27 of the convention

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