Poverty in the Pacific Island context has not generally meant hunger or destitution, but a continuous struggle to meet essential living expenses, particularly those that require cash payments. With rapidly changing economic and social environments where economies are becoming increasingly monetized, rural-urban migration is hastening urbanization, labor mobility for overseas employment is becoming more common and traditional community/cultural ties are weakening so too is the disintegration of the traditional social safety nets leaving the vulnerable groups to fall through the cracks. Measuring progress towards the achievement of MDG1 for poverty reduction has been problematic with lack of historic poverty estimates and, currently, no estimates of purchasing power parity (PPP) indices for most PICs. However, the latest available national poverty estimates, based on national basic needs poverty lines derived from household income and expenditure surveys (HIES) suggest that one-in-four households across the region has a per capita income below the respective national poverty line. These households represent almost one-third of the population. With regard to nutritional status, the Pacific is facing a double burden where both protein-energy and micronutrient malnutrition coexist with obesity. Partners, including UNICEF, are working to strengthen the data so as to better track progress in future.
Achievement against MDG2 (Basic Education) and the WFFC Goal of Quality Education faces three main challenges: achieving full enrolment, improving the quality of education and ensuring relevance and diversity in education so that it is truly ‘education for life’. So far none of the UNICEF Pacific countries have achieved full enrolment at primary and secondary level, and both quality and relevance need to be improved. There are concerns about those still left behind and those attending low quality schools. Enrollments at secondary levels of education have stagnated. Equity issues have appeared, particularly in secondary education, as poorer children drop out or are squeezed out of the education system. Expanding access to early childhood education is a crucial part of improving the quality of education through better preparation for learning and promoting more interaction in schools.
Most Pacific island countries have achieved gender parity at the primary school level. Gaps start appearing in secondary and tertiary institutions although some countries, such as Palau, have achieved good success. The greatest challenges for governments and partners relate to the low representation of women in decision-making, especially at political level and the pervasive high prevalence of gender-based violence.
Progress towards child health indicators, especially for young children (MDG4) remains slow across the Pacific. Critical actions to improve progress include intensive support for immunization, childhood nutrition, social mobilization, strengthened neonatal and child health services, hygiene promotion and the provision of quality safe water and safe sanitation.
To achieve progress against MDG5 (Improved Maternal Health) critical obstacles such as inadequate access to qualified staff and suitably equipped services have to be overcome.
Although substantial resources and effort have been invested by many development partners in combating HIV and AIDS (MDG6) there is still evidence of lack of knowledge of risk factors and high risk behaviour among adolescents. Research focusing on prevalence and knowledge, attitude, behaviour and practice has failed to identify the specific reasons for this. Targeted, in-depth research is necessary to provide more information on why safe sex is practiced infrequently and identify strategies that could be more effective in encouraging young people to practice safe sex.
National and regional partners now appear to be investing greater effort towards MDG7 (Environment) especially in the areas of safe water and sanitation but it is too early to detect significant changes in key indicators.
A major issue for creating a protective environment for children (Millennium Declaration and WFFC) is how to win widespread community commitment to the rights to protection specified in CRC. Partial commitment and inadequate enforcement of these rights is limiting the achievement of a protective environment for Pacific children. Stronger commitment is needed in the home, in the wider community and in relation to juvenile justice.