Poverty Issues in Fiji


More than 250,000 people in the Fiji islands live in poverty and many more live on or just above the poverty line. With a population dispersed over a multiple of islands, efficient delivery of health care, education and other social services is incredibly difficult. Fijian communities, especially those in rural area suffer the most extreme consequences of this poverty.

The balance of traditional life

The subsistence village lifestyle in Fiji or the 'Kaiviti way' is a simply beautiful existence. Life in the traditional villages centres on family, farming and fishing. The whole community work together to ensure everyone has food, shelter, comfort and friendship. Our volunteers see firsthand, this amazing way of life. There is a fine line between this traditional way of life and the prevalent poverty issues in Fiji. Understanding this balance and having projects which are conceived, directed and monitored by Fijian people in the rural communities is the key to creating the best possible assistance in Fiji; supporting sustainable, locally led projects whilst respecting, promoting and immersing into the Kaiviti way

Education, youth and sports

Many schools are in poor condition and devoid of basic materials. Poverty forces many children to drop out of education and many do not continue beyond primary school level. There is a very limited access to kindergarten schools and educational programmes for pre-school infants. Away from the classroom, there is a severe lack of extracurricular activities. Children in rural communities are often forced into a future of limited education and opportunity. Children, especially in the outer islands have no access to sporting clubs, sports equipment or resources, and a lack of sports structure and development within schools and communities.

Youth unemployment

There have been increases in youth crime and drug abuse in Fiji due to lack of work opportunities, limited positive role models and an absence of organised youth schemes and extra-curricular activities. Within Fijian society both women and young adults face additional hurdles. Women are less likely to receive tertiary education or gain access to jobs. Youth unemployment and urban drift are increasing in Fiji, with rural communities left with a severe lack of skills, training, support and available income.

Vital local infrastructure

There is a severe absence of basic infrastructure in rural areas, including sanitation facilities, schools, clinics, community centres, kindergarten classrooms, electricity, road access, river/stream access, sea wall defences and jetties and a limited supply of effective pumped systems to provide fresh water to rural communities.

Issues of health care

The quality of health services varies significantly in Fiji. In the outer islands health care is not easily accessible and the nearest clinics often involve an expensive sea journey. Poor sanitation systems and a lack of fresh water supplies can be a cause of severe sickness. According to the Asian Development Bank, only 50% of the population in Fiji has access to safe water and proper sanitation. The level of access to sanitation is 75% in urban areas, but only 12% in rural areas.

A Tourist's perspective

For the majority of tourists holidaying in Fiji, the underlying issues of hardship for local people are not immediately visible. It is not until tourists see beyond the palm trees and beaches that the extent of poverty in Fiji becomes clear. In a destination more synonymous with luxury honeymoons than deprivation, the harsh truth is that in the rural villages, roughly one third of Fiji's population live in poverty. Many communities are heavily disadvantaged, many children are denied the basic opportunities in life and many families struggle to meet their daily needs.

Specific development issues

Think Pacific's projects follow Community Needs Assessments that have been conducted by our local partners at the Fijian Ministry. These assessments form long term holistic objectives to raise the standard of basic services, health, education, sports and opportunity and support sustainable development in the rural communities. This is the basis for all of Think Pacific's expeditions in Fiji.

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