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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 26, 2002 – Radio Australia)---Fiji's Ministry of Social Welfare has recorded an increase in the number of people applying for family assistance allowances.

New applications for allowances stand at 8,280, a significant increase over figures recorded in previous years.

The slump in the Fiji economy -- sparked by the May 2000 coup -- has been held largely responsible for the increase, as widespread layoffs forced people to seek government help.

The ministry also reported large numbers of displaced farmers and elderly people applying for the assistance funds.

In addition to providing financial support, the department is helping address welfare issues by offering volunteer counseling services.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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