Housing crisis to blame for child rheumatic fever cases

Children in Auckland are falling ill with rheumatic fever as a direct result of the Government’s failure to address the housing crisis and child poverty, the Green Party said today.

Figures released today show the number of children with rheumatic fever in the Auckland and Waitemata district health board areas has stayed at the same level, despite a Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme running for five years now.

“This is a stark reminder that the housing crisis isn’t going away, and that for some families it’s a matter of life or death,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“Most regions are seeing reductions in rheumatic fever, but not in Auckland, where we know there are large numbers of people living in overcrowded, cold, damp and mouldy homes, and in cars and garages.

“Kids should not be contracting rheumatic fever in 21st century New Zealand but that’s the reality of what we’re dealing with here, and it will continue to be that way until we have a Government that is committed to ending the housing crisis and child poverty.

“If you don’t target the housing crisis happening right now, it is extremely difficult to address rheumatic fever. Getting kids out of living in cars, garages, and damp and overcrowded homes will help to reduce rheumatic fever rates.

“Kids will continue to get sick until we have minimum standards for healthy homes, like a WOF for rental houses.

“The Government also needs to build more state houses, and make sure they are warm, safe and dry.

“As a minimum, the Government can stop selling state houses in Auckland so that families aren’t forced into overcrowded conditions.

“The Green Party’s Schools at the Heart policy would make sure that all low decile schools have a dedicated school nurse to screen for illnesses like rheumatic fever,” Mrs Turei said.

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