Calling us all Fijians does not ‘make us the same’

Assistant Minister for Woman,Children and Poverty Alleviation Veena Bhatnagar with opposition member Lenora Qereqeretabua during an earlier parliament break this year. Picture: RAMA/FILE

CALLING us all Fijians does not magically make us the same, says National Federation Party parliamentarian Lenora Qereqeretabua.

“This Government, because of some mysterious reason known only to the A-G, continues to bury its head in the sand about the dire need for desegregated data along ethnicity in the fight against not only diabetes, but other diseases and social problems — family debt levels, unemployment, education levels, domestic and sexual violence, teenage pregnancy and the list goes on,” she said.

Ms Qereqeretabua said data on ethnicity was universally accepted as a vital tool for development.

“It does not need to be divisive which seems to be the irrational fear that A-G has.

“If there was a need to assist a particular ethnic group in terms of economic development, it does not mean that you are favouring one particular ethnicity.

“It is important to bring up others who are behind so that we can all be moving forward together.”

She said the role of racial and ethnic data collection in eliminating disparities was well known, just as it was well known that desegregated data were vital markers used to better identify and understand risk factors in a population.

“I want to use diabetes to highlight the absolute need for ethnic data to continue to be collected.

“Fiji, in 2018, had the highest mortality rate from diabetes according to global life-expectancy rankings.

“Many diabetics put off seeking medical attention due to denial about their condition, which results in diabetes-related complications by the time they do seek medical help.

“As well, many prefer to approach traditional healers, delaying medical treatment.

“These factors necessitate greater community education.

“Different ethnicities have different diets and social habits and so the fight against diabetes has to include data that is specific and relevant to each group in our communities.”

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