You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives. Neither can you choose your parents or your place of birth. If you could any sensible foetus would choose at least twenty other countries to be born in rather then New Zealand. New Zealand’s children’s needs are being seriously neglected. This essay will challenge New Zealand’s performance in child health and welfare. Looking at the widespread abuse of children, the growing rate of violent youth crime, and the effects of a damaged cultural environment.
New Zealand children are born with grossly unequal opportunities for health. Professor Gluckman (Prof. Of paediatrics at the Auckland University School of Medicine) said, “The state of our children’s health is not what it should be. Relative to other comparable countries our children are sicker and get poorly treated. About 200 children die in their first year of life in New Zealand who would not if they live in Australia or elsewhere in the Western world… We admit children with diseases that should not exist – rheumatic fever is rite; TB still occurs. ”
Were New Zealand’s children equal to the rest of the world we would not see such a high understaffing of paediatric services. For example, in New Zealand there is one paediatrician for every 3,400 children, whereas in the U. S. A. , even with its much larger population, there is one for every 1,300. The simple truth behind this, is that there is not an appropriate share of funds being assigned to child health. Dr Liz Segedin, a Paediatric Intensivist, believes the limitations of the endlessly awaited children’s hospital in Auckland reflect the low status of children’s health in New Zealand.
“They’ll be no specialised accident and emergency facility. No specialised adolescent unit. No intensive care unit. It’s really sad. ” “This just reflects the national priorities. ” “Children’s services are disseminated all over Auckland. ” An alternative look at child health is the children who owe their misfortune to the habits of their parents. Maternal drinking of alcohol, smoking and glue-sniffing in the antenatal period and parental smoking post-natally can all have a disastrous effect on the long-term health of their children.
Immunisation of children has fallen to alarming levels. An Auckland Star editorial in March 1987 drew attention to the major problem of immunisation. It showed 50% of children were immunised against measles in some parts of the country, whereas, by contrast, in the United States, children are not allowed to start school without evidence of their inoculation against measles. Looking in-depth at the number of ‘accidents’ in New Zealand, it is shocking. It has been traditional in New Zealand to regard accidents to children as something inevitable, and not preventable, yet the fact that a
child in Sweden, Denmark or England, to name a few, is less likely to die as the result of an accident than a child in New Zealand, questions this vague hypothesis. A radio news broadcast, mid-1988, asks for someone to collect a child who had fallen our of a turning car, apparently without the driver noticing. The child could be collected from Otahuhu police station. A troupe of monkeys in a dusty Asian town, moves towards a fountain. The young ones want to play in the water. The mothers allow them to play and drink, but each mother grasps the tail of her young one, so it can’t come to harm.
Instinct. One of the main reasons why children are more at risk of accidents in New Zealand is that there is a cultural tradition which makes children responsible for their own saftey, rather than it being the responsibility of an adult. Parents are responsible, not children. Parent vigilance on our roads is as necessary as animal parental vigilance is in the wild. Too many humans in New Zealand have lost that animal instinct to shepherd their children, to sniff the sir or prick up their ears to listen for danger.
Previously the abandoning of children was wide spread and widely accepted by civil and church authorities from ancient times through the middle ages. In many large families the abandoning of babies was a matter of survival. Many who didn’t die from starvation and exposure were used as servants and prostitutes. In New Zealand, regrettably, there is a diminishing number of people who appear to regard children as precious and deserving of particular planning, care and attention, in their own right, by virtue of their vulnerability, dependence and their potential.
The principal of Whangarei Boys High School, Maurice Dean, blames the corruption of the young on the lack of stability, love and guidance in many homes. Time has brought dramatic improvement in some ways. Yet some things seem unchanging. In a orphans home, the boys slept in dormitories, “Bedwetting was common among the younger boys, who were al ways punished for it. Punishments were frequent and severe – young boys were beaten for trivial offence with a knotted rope on their bare backs. ” (The book Looking Back)
One hundred years later in October 1988, there are reports of a four year old boy being beaten with a steel rod from a clothes dryer, on more than one occasion, for bedwetting. “The extent of child abuse and child neglect is far greater than New Zealand society accepts or is willing to accept it to be. The formal response to the problem is feeble, at a legal level, at an intervention level, and at a prevention level. ” (Lawyer, Simon Jefferson) Do we shudder, and turn our backs to the battered children? One might think so, judging by the total lack of public response. “Most feared were cords – electric blanket and vacuum cleaner
cords and a couple of times tent poles. I spent my ninth birthday in hospital with stitches in my face where my mother had opened me up with her fist. I just lived in complete fear of my mother. ” (Child’s story, reported to Evening Post) In biblical times, boys had full adult status at thirteen, before that age they were subject to sexual abuse. Male rape under the age of nine was not punishable. And before the 13th century any sexual activity with a very young person was not considered rape. Both moral and social issues have to be evaluated when regarding such unethical behaviour.
Disturbingly according to the Canterbury Area Health Board, close to 90% of the victims of child abuse know the abuser. Reported cases show that a girl born today has a one in four chance of being sexually abused before the age of eighteen; the risk of boys is one in eight. Children who go through this traumatic experience remember it forever. Looking at the pictures and poems done by victims brings tears to the eyes to realise the tragic memories they hold. It is so disturbing that such vulnerable persons are put through such a horrendous situation.
This and other elements of a child’s life are what increase the numbers of young offenders who continue the cycle of abuse. “Children are the only group in New Zealand society who can be locked up without a court order…. Who are removed from their homes for the crimes of others… Who can be beaten without it being an assault. ” (Advertisement in the Listener) Questioning the readiness with which New Zealand society permits children, despite our affluence to… suffer neglect and ill-health. The children of New Zealand do not deserve the suffering nor the ignorance of the nation.