More poverty among kids since quakes

20:31, Jul 18 2012

Earthquake-hit Christchurch children are suffering from more poverty-related illnesses, a welfare charity says.

KidsCan chief executive Julie Helson said staff were seeing more illness and more poverty among some Christchurch schoolchildren since the quakes.

''We're seeing more skin diseases, respiratory conditions and generally more colds and flu cases in Christchurch,'' she said.

Parents were struggling to take their children to a GP because of cost and access.

''People can't afford to heat their homes either and we're hearing that people are living in one room that they heat and the rest of the house might be damp and mouldy and it's just ideal for the spread of diseases.''

KidsCan would be implementing an in-school health pilot programme to ''treat and catch illnesses'' before they required hospitalisation. It was hoped an Aranui school would trial the programme before the end of the year.


Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) member Andrew Dickerson said he was ''not at all surprised by the amount of sickness in the community''.

''Where you have people living in badly damaged homes or overcrowded conditions, you can expect communicable diseases like influenza and whooping cough thrive in the community.''

He said a symptom of the region's current housing issues would be ''unprecendented sickness''.

Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington, Philippa Howden-Chapman said the World Health Organisation recommends homes should always be between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius.

The average New Zealand home was 16C and bedroom temperatures would often drop below 14C in the winter, she said.

''There's obviously huge complications with homes in Christchurch following the earthquakes and many people living in substandard housing''.

General manager for the Canterbury Charity Hospital Carl Shaw said some people were having to cancel scheduled surgery because they had the flu.

''And we've had staff that have been down with it too. I don't think we've hit the worst of it yet so I think we'll be in for a rough ride over the next few weeks,'' he said.

The Press