Fijians drink more and more soda and die

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In Fiji, it is not uncommon to see children going to school with a bottle of Coca-Cola in their hands.
In Fiji, it is not uncommon to see children going to school with a bottle of Coca-Cola in their hands. Beawiharta / Reuters

In Fiji, even fishermen avoid fresh fish. Too expensive, more to their liking. In the archipelago, where tourists still enjoy marinated mahis-mahi, chicken stews and other traditional dishes based on exotic fruits and vegetables, the locals prefer to indulge in a jelly of junk food sprinkled with non-alcoholic drinks, preferably sweet To support the growing demand, the Fiji branch of the Australian distributor and bottler Coca-Cola Amatil announced at the beginning of November that it tripled its production.

21,000 bottles of Coca-Cola at the moment

With 21,000 bottles coming out now every hour from her establishment located south of the main island, she also feels "To undertake a strategy of significant growth in exports". Bad news for local and regional authorities. Nine of the 10 most obese countries in the world are the Pacific Island states, according to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO).

"As we struggle to restrict advertising that promotes food and drink harmful to children's health, these big industries are our biggest obstacle and our biggest fight."replied Isimeli Tukana, adviser to the health minister of Fiji. Coca-Cola Amatil, a leading producer of ready-to-drink drinks and snacks in the Asia-Pacific region, is omnipresent in these Pacific archipelagos. Its products, whose colors are displayed in XXL format on the windows, are also available in remote villages, where it is not uncommon for children to go from school to a bottle of soda. the hand

Read also Obesity, a plague in the Pacific

As for adults, they can drink several liters a day to accompany chips, noodles, canned meat and confectionery. These highly processed products, rich in sugar, salt and fat, arrive in whole containers in these islands, which import up to 90% of their food. Cheap, which do not require preparation and are often addictive, they have gradually replaced a kitchen based on fresh products.

Diabetes sometimes affects children as young as ten years old. It has become a major cause of disability in the archipelago, with an average of three amputations per day.

The consequences are visible. In some states in the area, over 90% of the population is overweight. In the ten most affected countries, one in five children suffers from obesity. And above all, the number of people with chronic diseases has exploded. In Fiji, 84% of deaths are the result of non-communicable diseases: cardiovascular diseases, tumors, chronic respiratory disorders and diabetes. The latter, which sometimes affects children for just a decade, has become one of the leading causes of disability in the archipelago, with an average of three amputations per day. A scourge that the authorities have had no choice but to take over. Educational programs in schools; campaigns that promote breastfeeding, sports, fruit and vegetables; A tax on sugary drinks … The Fiji government has taken action on several fronts, but also with the Pacific neighbors who consider chronic diseases as the second major crisis affecting Oceania, just after the climate warming.

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