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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Nov. 29) – One of the architects of economic reform in Nauru, Health Minister Dr Kieren Keke, says he hopes today’s Round table meeting will lead to a new approach to health care in the country.

Dr Keke says Nauru has shocking health statistics with life expectancy for men now 49.

He says this is the impact of lifestyle diseases which in large part have gone untreated because the island does not have adequate health facilities.

Dr Keke says in the past, when Nauru was one of the richest nations in the world, it sent many of its ill people to Australia for treatment, but that avenue has been closed for some years.

"Nauru’s hospital and health services really became a triage point’ for people to be sent overseas. So we are left with a population with a great burden of disease that has been well documented for thirty years. But no programmes, no interventions have been put in place at all to address the diabetes and other diseases that we have."

Meanwhile, Nauru will today try to convince many of the world’s richer countries to fund sweeping reforms to its economy and infrastructure.

With the help of the Pacific Islands Forum it has brought together representatives of around 20 donor nations and agencies.

The donors will be presented with the just completed National Sustainable Development Strategy. It’s defined as a roadmap to a modestly better quality of life for Nauruans. The strategy lays out priorities and the initial emphasis will be on generating revenue. This includes increasing the production of phosphate and a deal to achieve this is already in place. The Government wantsto better use its fish resources, re-establish a national trust fund, increase the production of food through the encouragement of agriculture and try to garner more in remittances from Nauruans working overseas. It also hopes to raise the quality and provision of education and improve health statistics that are the worst in the region. The Nauru Government is also wanting to rebuild infrastructure - currently power is shut down for up to six hours a day."

November 30, 2005

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