A historic ruling based on a complaint filed by a Pacific Islander in New Zealand has opened the door to climate-change asylum claims.
The UN Human Rights Committee made the landmark ruling based on the case of Ioane Teitota from the island of Kiribati, which is threatened by rising sea levels.
The committee ruled that countries cannot deport people who have sought asylum due to climate-related threats.
Teitota who lodged the complaint in 2015 after being deported from New Zealand when his asylum application was denied argued his right to life had been violated, as rising sea levels and other destructive effects of climate change had made his homeland uninhabitable.
He said he was forced to migrate from the island of Tarawa, to New Zealand, due to impacts such as a lack of freshwater due to saltwater intrusion, erosion of arable land, and associated violent land disputes which had resulted in numerous fatalities.
Health Promotion Forum of NZ’s Pacific Strategist, Dr Viliami Puloka said HPF supported the ruling by the UN as a ‘human rights issue’.
Dr Puloka said most Pacific Islanders didn’t want to leave their homes or countries, but if “it had to go down to the wire,” and they were forced to leave because of the impacts of climate change, then the ruling would provide support to their claims for relocation.
Dr Colin Tukuitonga, former Director General of the Pacific Community agreed that for Pacific Islanders, or anyone else, relocating or moving within their own country or to other countries was a last resort
In his presentation at the 23rd IUHPE World Health Promotion Conference, co-hosted by the Health Promotion Forum of NZ in Rotorua, he said climate change was now the most important threat to Pacific lives and livelihoods and there was potential for an ‘ecological disaster”.
SPC, he said, had first-hand experience with the stress involved in relocating and in the last few years had been assisting the Fiji government to relocate villages up to higher ground as a result of the climate crisis.
“Relocating communities might sound simple, but relocating your village, leaving behind what you know is a big deal to the families …”
While the UN Committee determined that Teitota’s right to life had not been violated as sufficient protection measures had been implemented in Kiribati, UN member Yuval Shany said: “Nevertheless, this ruling sets forth new standards that could facilitate the success of future climate change-related asylum claims”.
The Committee further clarified that people seeking asylum are not required to prove that they would face immediate harm, if deported back to their home countries.
Their rationale was that because climate-related events can occur both suddenly – such as intense storms or flooding – or over time through slow-onset processes such as sea level rise and land degradation, either situation could spur people to seek safety elsewhere.
Additionally, Committee members underlined that the international community must assist countries adversely affected by climate change.
While the judgment is not binding, it does emphasise that countries have a legal responsibility to protect people whose lives are threatened by the climate crisis.
HPF’s Executive Director, Sione Tu’itahi joined a panel of speakers, who are passionate and committed to helping Pacific people combat climate change, at the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) Pacific Week Symposium on Environment and Sustainability at Auckland Hospital yesterday. (Monday, October 7).
Mr Tu’itahi whose speech was entitled Moana Ola, Fonua Ola, Healthy People, Healthy Environment discussed how Pacific Indigenous knowledge could contribute to addressing the political, socio-economic and ecological determinants of our health and wellbeing.
He looked at the Pacific Conceptual Frameworks of Moana Ola and Fonua Ola, planetary wellbeing and indigenous knowledge and what we can do together to tackle the global challenges that humanity now faces.
Other speakers who are doing some amazing work for Pacific Island communities were:
- Phil Somerville, EatLessPlastic, CEO shared his research, learnings and insights on plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean and environmental impact on Pacific communities.
- Mary Curnow, Director Fundraising and Business Development, Volunteer Service Abroad who spoke on “Volunteers, Climate Change & Health: Building capacity across the Pacific”.
- Kevin Hague, CEO, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc. addressed “Hope in the Face of Calamity: charting a positive course through climate change and the 6th mass extinction”.
The ADHB’s sustainability work extends beyond the Auckland catchment working the Pacific Island health teams to help prepare for climate change for the vulnerable communities in the Pacific region. Pacific Island nations account for emitting less than 1% of greenhouse gases but are among the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, especially sea level rise.
The leading role of women in agriculture throughout the Pacific must be recognised and supported says the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.
In her keynote address at the launch of the Country Gender Assessments of Agriculture and the Rural Sectors (CGA-ARS) in Apia, Samoa Ms Mata’afa said women’s critical contributions in planting, tending, and harvesting crops and edible marine life sustained the majority of families throughout the region
Ms Mata’afa said despite their prominent role in agriculture however research also indicated that women continued to be constrained by unequal access to land; limited access to training, credit, and job opportunities compared with their male counterparts, as well as an unequal time burden with their normal household responsibilities.
Women were also disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change, she said.
“From a gender perspective, the increasing global concerns and our own challenges at regional and national level for food security is becoming more urgent due to the impacts of climate change.
“One thing that we know from experience is, advancing our gender outcomes as a region and as national governments is not the job of one organisation or ministry or sector. It is the collective responsibility of all across Government and at all levels, with partnerships with the private sector and civil society organisations.
“There is clear evidence that food and nutrition security and other benefits such as poverty reduction and increased socio-economic wellbeing are within reach when we use a gender lens to make sure the whole population is engaged in the primary sector,” said Ms Mata’afa.
The Gender Assessments will be conducted in Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu and will be led by the Pacific Community – SPC, in collaboration with FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation).
Dr Viliami Puloka, HPF’s Pacific Strategist looks back at the amazing Pacific experience at IUHPE2019 in Rotorua.
Fakafeta’I, malo lava, vinaka vakalevu are the words that come to mind – hearts full of joy and gratitude to be part of this world-wide event right here at home in Aotearoa New Zealand.
All the Pacific participants especially those from the islands were so thrilled and appreciative of the fact that they did not have to paddle far to get here. It was only a three-hour flight from Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia. It confirmed the fact that Aotearoa is squarely part of the Pacific islands.
Arriving in Rotorua was heart-warming to many who thought New Zealand was the land of the palangi. But all were excited to meet and share the experience of their Maori cousins. Many commented on the spiritual experience they had during the Powhiri, which reminded them of their own version at home.
Some were moved to tears when exchanges the “breath of life” with Maori delegates while walking between sessions or at various meeting venues.
We really felt at home and immediately identified with our Maori cousins and their environment. When Tamati Kurger spoke, we were already in awe, excited, joyful, appreciative and motivated for action. It was a big deal for us to come in to a very enabling, encouraging and empowering environment. That really prepared our hearts and minds to focus on the contents of the conference.
Pacific Community (SPC) commitment and partnership through sponsorship of participants to attend, give presentations led by the Director General Colin Tukuitoga as one of the Plenary speakers shows great leadership and very much appreciated.
A highlight for Pacific Youth was the SPC Pacific Youth WAKE UP art project unfolds itself through out the days of the conference. It was a call on young people to wake up to the facts that “today is the tomorrow you dreamt about yesterday”. What you do today as far as Noncommunicable diseases are concerned will return to haunt you at your later years.
WAKE UP NOW!
Our health is a resource that we do life with. But the statistics clearly show we in the Pacific are not doing it well.The share of public expenditure on health is also rising, said Dr Puloka, with nine of the 11 Pacific countries featured in a WDI (World Development Indicator) report increasing their share of public spending on health as a percentage of GDP (Growth Domestic Product) between 2000 and 2013, despite being increasingly vulnerable to global economic shocks. Working closer with the private sector is one of the few ways Dr Puloka can see light flickering at the end of the tunnel. “Preventing the rise of NCDs through education is the key for long-term sustainability,” he says. “Working alongside the private sector to find solutions has the potential to provide a workable solution.” Craig Strong, PCF CEO says the Pacific Wave Forum was a success and it wouldn’t have been possible without the PCF team who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the programme ran seamlessly. “I’d also like to acknowledge PIFS and PIPSO, who we partnered with, and to all the representatives from the Pacific Private Sector organisations. “Our conference was centred on the Pacific concept of ‘Talanoa’. We heard the stories, ideas and challenges that our region continues to battle – NCDs and Climate Change. “The collective discussions in the duration of the conference resulted in collective actions. These are now drafted in a statement that will be presented at the Private Sector Dialogue with Forum Leaders next month in Nauru, keeping in mind the pertinent theme: Building a Strong Blue Pacific – Our People, Our Islands, Our Will.” (PACIFIC Cooperation Foundation weekly news and updates) HPF’s Dr Viliami Puloka speaking on non-communicable diseases at the Pacific Wave conference in Auckland.
- Central Auckland (the CBD)
- South Auckland (Manurewa)
- West Central Auckland (Blockhouse Bay)
- Northland (Kaikohe)
Gardening and Health: Let your garden be your health and your health be your gardenDr. Viliami PULOKA, Senior Health Promotion Strategist, New Zealand Health Promotion Forum Abstract When Hippocrates, the father of medicine some 2,500 years ago said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, I can assure you he was not talking about fast food like Cheese burgers, Fizzy drinks and French fries. He was talking about fresh produce from people’s home gardens. Being the top physician of his time and a leading scientist in the field of medicine, he knew the importance of good healthy food in providing proper fuel for healthy living. Consumption of foods that are highly processed but empty of proper nutrients is one of the key drivers of the obesity and diabetes pandemic the world is facing today, including Wallis and Futuna. The Wallis & Futuna Chronic Diseases Risk Factor Study in 2009 showed a 17% prevalence of diabetes, and an 87% prevalence of overweight and obesity among the study population. Eating fresh food, locally grown in home gardens is a very good way to prevent and control chronic diseases including diabetes and obesity. The health benefits of growing your own food are well documented. You are in control and decide what to grow. You are not dependent on food produced by someone you do not know, whose interest is your money not your health. Growing your own garden provides opportunities for physical activity which goes hand in hand with good nutrition giving you good health. One can also enjoy fresh air and sunshine, which is good medicine for the whole person. Wallis and Futuna are very fortunate to have such fertile soil, and many people still grow food in their own gardens. The challenge is the ever-increasing amount of readily available imported processed food that competes with traditional local cuisines. I like to suggest that the way forward to good health through home gardening is to ‘return to nature’ and re-claim the socio-cultural and economic value of home gardening and… “Let your garden be your Health and your Health be your garden”. “If I had the same life expectancy as a Tongan man, I’d only have one year and three months left to live.” Statistics show that life expectancy for men in Tonga is 65 years, mainly due to the rise in NCDs. A child born in the Pacific today is more likely to die before their grandparents and parents, largely due to the Obesogenic environments. It does not matter whether we are in Samoa, Tonga Vanuatu or Wallis and Futuna our story is one and the same. A healthy baby is born, fully immunized, is well cared for and loved. We invest in their education and they get good qualification, good job and they may earn good money. The food environment however makes it very easy for us to eat ourselves to death. Young Pacific persons develop diabetes as early as age 30 and many develops complications by age 40 requiring amputation at 50 followed by kidney failure at 55 paving the way for “early preventable death” the plight of Pacifica today. What a loss! Financial/economic investments as well as social and cultural loss that have direct impacts on families and the country as a whole. The presentation discusses NCD issues as related to how we look after our health as “a garden for our food security, health is for our everyday living.” Health isn’t everything, but without health, nothing else matters. Your health is the only resource we have to do life and to contribute to life. Doctors and nurses have known for many years now that health deteriorates when people don’t eat healthy food. Everyone knows that as a fact but knowledge is not enough to make us do what we know we should be doing. In the Pacific, NCDs cause up to 40% of sickness and up to 70% of deaths. Over 20% of countries’ budgets are allocated to NCD control in hospitals. Much more resources is needed for prevention and to address the many social cultural determinants outside the hospitals. Some 2500 years ago, Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. The NCD issue is directly related to what we eat or do not eat. It is therefore important to look at the food we eat with the same respect we give to any medicine we take for any illness. From the food we eat our body have fuel or energy to carry out daily activities. To be healthy, the energy gain from food we eat should be proportional to the energy required for daily activity. This is the problem in the Pacific, we eat and gain way too much energy but spent too little doing minimal physical activity. We drives to the supermarket, buy processed energy rich food instead of working in our gardens. People in the Pacific don’t walk to the hospital, because when they do decide to go, they are too sick to walk. A 2009 study in Wallis and Futuna revealed high rates of factors causing NCDs. Not enough fruit and vegetables consumed, inadequate physical activity, high rate of high blood pressure and high rates of obesity. Specifically regarding obesity in Wallis and Futuna, the risk factors are visible as early as age 18. In the 18-24 age group, 51% of men and37 % of women are already obese. Many people are obese very early in life. In Wallis and Futuna, diabetes prevalence was three times higher in 2009 than 1986. High blood pressure was twice as prevalent and obesity remained high. If the various NCD risk factors in Wallis and Futuna and are compared with American Samoa (the Pacific NCD champions), the figures for both territories are quite similar. With regard to food security, the issue is access to and the availability and use of food. In Wallis and Futuna, these issues do not really apply, as food is available. The problem is related to the choices local people make in terms of food. We eat what we do not grow, we grow what we do not eat. Geoff Lawton said that all these issues can be solved by gardening. Gardening can really feed both body and mind. When people garden, they know exactly what they are growing, unlike shop items produced in unknown places by unknown people whose interest is more in our wallets than our good health. So it is best to grow our own food. Gardening should be medically prescribed. Uvea is a garden with a few houses dotted around it. Most homes have gardens and gardening has many benefits:
- Stress relief – A study in the Netherlands indicated that gardening is better at relieving stress than other relaxing leisure activities.
- Brain health – A study that followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found that those who gardened regularly had a 36% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners
- Nutrition – Studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than other people. The freshest food you can eat is the food you grow,
- Healing – Interacting with nature also helps our bodies heal. A landmark study by Roger S. ULRICH, published in the April 27, 1984, issue of Science magazine, found strong evidence that nature helps heal.
- Immunity – In 2007, University of Colorado neuroscientist Christopher LOWRY, then working at Bristol University in England, made a startling discovery. He found that certain strains of harmless soil-borne Mycobacterium vaccae sharply stimulated the human immune system. It’s quite likely that exposure to soil bacteria plays an important role in developing a strong immune system .[m1] [VP2]
|“Making inroads into the elimination of child poverty may just be the remedy we all need for the ever increasing costs to the health system. Keeping people well, it seems, is the much cheaper option.”
Trevor Simpson, Deputy Executive Director,
Health Promotion Forum – Runanga Whakapiki Ake i te Hauora o Aotearoa
“Making inroads into the elimination of child poverty may just be the remedy we all need for the ever increasing costs to the health system. Keeping people well, it seems, is the much cheaper option.”
Trevor Simpson, Deputy Executive Director,
Health Promotion Forum – Runanga Whakapiki Ake i te Hauora o Aotearoa
- Smoking (46.2% of males and 16.3% of females aged 15-64 years)
- Alcohol consumption (22.2% of males and 4.8% of females aged 15-64 years)
- Low fruit and vegetable intake (approximately 92.8% of Tongans aged 15-64 reported they eat less than the require five servings of fruit and vegetables a day)
- Low physical activity (54.8% of females and 32.4% of males aged 15-64)
- Obesity (76.3% of females and 60.7% of males aged 25-64)
- High blood sugar (16.4% of Tongans aged 25-64 had elevated blood glucose levels)
- High blood cholesterol (66.1% of men and 34.2% of women aged 25-64 had blood cholesterol levels of more than 5.00 mmol/L)
- workforce development
- indigenous health promotion and health issues.
“Assertive, if not aggressive approach” called for by the Right Hon Sir Edmund ThomasRetired Court Appeal Judge the Right Hon Sir Edmund Thomas (pictured right – from 3 News) called for an “assertive, if not aggressive approach” by communities and community groups; to reverse the extreme inequality that currently exists in Aotearoa New Zealand. He was speaking to a packed Maidment Theatre in Auckland, late October. HPF Health Strategist Dr Ieti Lima was in the audience and reports on some of Sir Edmund’s key points to support his argument. Call for “sufficient force” In his powerful, engaging and, at times, challenging lecture, Sir Edmund proposed a focussed campaign to promote substantive human rights. He further called for “sufficient force” to ensure people claim the minimal social, economic and cultural standards to which they have a right. Sir Edmund asserted that, if the governing bodies or the courts cannot generate the required assertive approach to support people’s rights, the community must initiate the action needed. “Discussion and debate will not suffice,” he said. “This legacy is now too entrenched to be so readily reversed.” Neo-liberalism at the heart of the problem Sir Edmund was unequivocal in linking the “extreme – even obscene – inequality” that exists in Aotearoa New Zealand to the “traumatic neo-liberal transformation” that has been pursued here. According to the retired judge, the top ten per cent of New Zealand’s population today owns half of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 50 per cent owns just five per cent of the wealth. He pointed to Maori health statistics as appalling, and declared that he finds “the neglect of a people socially and culturally offensive.” So how has this gross inequality been tolerated in a country that once prided itself on its egalitarian culture and sense of social justice? Sir Edmund’s explanation was blunt; it has been fostered and sustained by the rich and powerful, to perpetuate their own wealth and privilege. Sir Edmund argued that the term ‘equality’ is today more often than not defined in terms of equality of opportunity. By suggesting that all people have the same opportunity, the term obscures the true extent of inequality within the community. If this definition remains, it simply provides the opportunity for those in an advantaged position to further advance their superiority and privilege. “This perspective of equality in turn impairs social mobility,” he said. “The disadvantaged are stuck with being disadvantaged. … It becomes a vicious circle”. Neo-liberalism – according to Sir Edmund – is a theory that insists human well-being can best be advanced by ensuring strong property rights, free enterprise, free market and free trade. He identified eight features of the neo-liberal legacy:
- Values directed by economic order
- Governmental intervention
- Trade unions
- Social justice