Pasifika need extra help dealing with Covid’s harsh reality – councillor

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A key leader for the Pasifika community is calling for more generosity to help struggling families facing poverty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Otara Health chairperson Efeso Collins.

Efeso Collins says the government needs to do a better job at including Māori and Pacific leaders in the messaging around Covid-19 safety. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Many families in South Auckland have been hit hard by the impacts of coronavirus with job losses an added burden, lack of access to technology/devices to educate children during lockdown, and a growing food crisis on their doorstep.

Auckland councillor for Manukau, Efeso Collins, said many Pasifika households have three generations living under one roof.

Covid has further exposed poverty levels within some South Auckland families, leaving them in desperate need of food.

He appealed for food and financial donations to go to Mangere Budgeting Services, Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Meanwhile, he also criticised the Ministry of Health for not including Pacific leaders in the Covid-19 “decision making table” fast enough.

He urged the government to do a better job at including Māori and Pacific leaders in the messaging around safety and hoped they could use the connections Pacific leaders already had within their community.

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“The Ministry of Health really needs to get its act together when it comes to making sure that our people are represented… when it comes to who is getting the messages out.”

Collins, whose ward is at the heart of the current Covid-19 cluster, said the community deserves better.

He wanted to see Covid-19 safety updates about the outbreak translated into Samoan, Tongan, and Māori .

“That’s not something we should be asking for – it should be on hand. They have missed an opportunity because they don’t have the right people at the table and it doesn’t take much.”

He said cultural barriers needed to be addressed for the message to be effective.

Ministries defend their approach

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said they had made extra effort to communicate Covid-19 safety messages to Māori and Pacific communities, but only “over the last two days”.

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples was leading the Pacific Covid-19 communications campaign and to date, the communications campaign has translated all official key messages into nine Pacific languages, a spokesperson said.

The Ministry of Pacific Peoples had worked with the Ministry of Health to run ethnic specific language programmes on radio programmes.

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In a statement a Ministry of Health spokesperson said they “paired community leaders with general practitioners who speak the relevant languages and are developing ethnic specific language videos to help spread safety messages”.

“The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre Lead (and Counties Manukau Health) and a range of clinical and service delivery experts” were being included in the response and “would come together every morning to share their pieces of the picture with us….We also participate in daily weekday meetings with Pacific church leaders”.

They said they had also prepared a flyer/brochure (printed and online copies) in English and nine Pacific languages (Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island, Niuean, Tokelauan, Tuvaluan, Kiribati, Rotuman and Fijian) to be distributed via Pacific health providers, clinics, food banks and churches.

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