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Kiwi Kids – An Endangered Species

Kiwi Kids – An Endangered Species

While some die because they are born too little to cope, a huge number are dying because they are caught in a cycle of poverty, they are not immunised, or their parents don’t have the most basic parenting skills.

“We are talking about Kiwi kids – New Zealand children who don’t have the ability to speak out for themselves,” said Angela Baldwin, Plunket’s general manager of clinical services.

Figures collected by Plunket from Ministry of Health data and released today (subs: 5 October), show that in the four years from 1 July 1995 to 30 June 1999, 252,223 were hospitalised and 1,623 children under five years of age died because of illness.

In the five years from 1994 through to the end of 1998, 18,555 were hospitalised and 325 children died of injuries (see table attached), according to information from the Injury Prevention Research Unit, using Ministry of Health data.

“Children are not little adults. They are babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers for whom life is a huge learning curve. They look to their parents for nurturing, love and the basic essentials of life. It seems so simple, but the figures show that it isn’t. Parents and children are struggling.

“Plunket nurses, Kaiawhina and community Karitane are increasingly finding that many of the illnesses and injuries Kiwi children are suffering from stem from overcrowding in cold and damp houses and a basic lack of health and hygiene.

“There is also a lack of awareness as to the stages of development of a baby - when and how well a baby should be able to sit, crawl, walk, see and hear.

“Many newborn babies die or suffer life-long illness through the plight of their family environment, including the effects of smoking, drugs, alcohol, poor nutrition, poverty and family violence.”

Pam Murray, Plunket’s New Zealand President said in years gone by many more parents were able to rely on support and advice from their extended families than is now the case.

“Society has changed and times have changed. Here we are, on the eve of an annual appeal, which for us has usually featured appeal envelopes with healthy, happy babies.

“But now with mounting issues and lack of funding we are saying, please, please help. This year’s house to house appeal has never been more important to the health and welfare of New Zealand children,” said Pam Murray. “We cannot risk them becoming an endangered species”.

The Plunket Annual Appeal takes place from 8 – 14 October.

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