18 May 2010

Tonga Women's Centre sees economic pressure link to rising child neglect

9:04 pm on 18 May 2010

A women's centre in Tonga says it's seeing increasing cases of neglect of children and babies because of financial pressures.

A paediatrician in Tonga says a lack of money may have been a factor in recent cases of protein malnutrition that contributed to the deaths of two babies and the hospitalisation of others.

The director of the Tonga Women and Children's Crisis Centre says they're also receiving a rise in reports of malnourished babies from village health clinics.

'Ofa kilevuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki says some babies are being fed watered-down milk because formula is too expensive.

She says economic pressures are pushing women into workplaces which are often not supportive of breastfeeding.

"Because women are now forced to enter into the workforce and earn an extra income for the family, the dilemma is what can I do with my family, how can I continue breastfeeding. Eventually they end up feeding the baby formula, just so they can go get that extra job."

'Ofa kilevuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki says they're also seeing a couple of cases a month of mothers not sending children to school because they can't provide them with breakfast and lunch.