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‘Hypocritical’ NZ told to stop fatty food exports to Pacific

Mutton flaps

Mutton flaps banned in New Zealand and the US but not in the Pacific. Image: Kiva.org

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Michael Sergel and Finian Scott in Wellington

New Zealand must stop the export of fatty foods to Pacific countries if it wants to deal with the region’s record high rates of obesity and diabetes, a Samoan MP told a forum of Pacific leaders today.

Gataoloaifa’na Amataga Alesana Gidlow told delegates at the Pacific Parliamentary and Political Leaders Forum in Wellington that New Zealand is largely to blame, for failing to stop the exporting of fatty meats and other products.

“In the true spirit of supporting each other, we ask our developed brother, partner and neighbour, New Zealand, to stop exporting to your poor and less developed neighbour in the Pacific all your fatty products that are not for sale in your country because they are not consumable,” she demanded.

APJlogo72_icon“When Sir Edmund Hillary was asked, ‘why did you climb Mount Everest?’, he said, ‘because it is there.’ So long as you export these fatty products, there will always be a market in the Pacific. So let us work together in nipping the problem in the bud.”

Afiago Gidlow was responding to a challenge from New Zealand MP Dr Paul Hutchison to take a “cradle to grave: right diet, right exercise” approach to tackling obesity. Like other delegates, she thought New Zealand was being hypocritical.

Tongan MP Sione Sangaster Saulala also saw hypocrisy in the diplomatic line from New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific.

He told delegates, including MPs from New Zealand’s Parliament, that if New Zealand really wanted to help the Pacific it should provide fishing boats and farming equipment to make fish and produce more affordable against imported fatty goods.

American Samoa country representative Taotasi Archie Soliai said obesity had created a “public health crisis”, and that diabetes and other non-communicable diseases posed a serious threat to the health of his territory’s people.

He said 90 percent of American Samoan adults are overweight, and 47 percent suffer from diabetes. The only way to reduce those rates, he said, was for people to make dramatic changes in lifestyles.

Fijian youth advocate Tura Lewai said low rates of safe sex and high rates of suicide were the worst health issues being faced by his country.

Women are “beaten up for asking their men to use condoms” because men presume that women are cheating on them, he said.

Lewai also said political instability had lead to high rates of mental illness and depression in Fiji, with young people at particular risk. He claimed Indo-Fijians were up to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than the world average, and suicide was the leading cause of death in the country.

“The situation won’t change until our young people have hope for the future,” he told delegates, referring to ongoing doubts about the government’s commitment to democratic elections in 2014.

New Zealand Green MP Catherine Delahunty told delegates that some of the worst Pacific health outcomes were in West Papua, where women and men are subject to rape, military sanction, violence and torture.

Samoan MP Tafua Maluelue Tafua raised an objection to Delahunty’s comments on the basis that they were offensive to Papua New Guinea.

However, no delegates from Papua New Guinea took offence and the Speaker ruled that offensive statements were allowed and welcomed under the rules of Parliament.

The delegates argued that non-communicable diseases such as diabetes were just as important to address as communicable and reproductive diseases, and decided that the focus should be on state of health rather than disease status.

Major statements were made on junk food, lack of fishing/farming equipment and the West Papuan conflict.

The original motion, put forward by Cook Islands MP Selina Napu, was aimed at getting a consensus around reducing disease rates, making healthcare more efficient, reducing rates of STIs, and changing the lifestyles of Pacific peoples.

The leaders agreed that non-communicable diseases such as diabetes were as important as communicable and reproductive diseases, and decided that the focus should be on improving general state of health rather than on the rate of diseases.

Michael Sergel and Finian Scott are Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student journalists at AUT University. They are covering the Pacific politics forum for Pacific Scoop and the Pacific Media Centre as an Asia-Pacific Journalism assignment.

Critics challenge mutton flap exports to Samoa