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Govt urged to increase Pacific aid

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/10/2016

The government is being urged to increase aid to the Pacific as a new report cites widespread hunger and thirst across the region.

International aid and development agency Caritas describes the situation as severe.

It says there are cases of children eating cassava roots softened with paracetamol and people dying from lack of food and clean water.

The examples are contained in the latest Caritas State of the Environment Report for Oceania, launched in Parliament on Tuesday.

The Green Party says the government must recognise the situation.

"We can't claim to be responsible global citizens when we're only offering the bare minimum of aid to our Pacific neighbours, whose day-to-day lives are being severely impacted by climate change," co-leader James Shaw said.

"There are consistent reports from aid organisations that the government is not directing climate aid to those most in need."

Mr Shaw says the government is spending disproportionate amounts on high-profile development projects at the expense of those that secure access to clean water and develop climate-resilient crops.

The report says the region's basic food and water supplies have been hit by a strong El Nino weather pattern, which has compounded the effects of cyclones Pam and Winston and ongoing climate change.

At the peak of the drought in summer, more than 4.7 million people in the region were affected by food and water issues, it says, quoting United Nations figures.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand director Julianne Hickey says the impact continues to be felt, especially on health, education and livelihoods.

She says this is the reason Caritas has lifted its assessment of the state of safe food and water supplies in Oceania to severe, from high in 2015.

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