Did you see the Campbell Live programme on Monday night about preventable illness in children? Dr Innes Asher of the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Auckland showed exactly what happens to children whose parents can't afford the absolute basics of a decent life - warm, dry housing which is not overcrowded, and enough good food.
They repeatedly suffer the kinds of persistent, serious respiratory infections and skin diseases that are usually seen in the third world. In fact another doctor who has worked in third world countries said he was seeing exactly the same levels and types of illness in children here as he saw there.
In an earlier report Dr Asher told a story that shows how poverty works across generations - and what a huge cost it imposes on children, parents, the health system, and ultimately all of us.
An eight year old boy was referred to Starship Outpatients with several months of chronic productive cough, and difficulty breathing. He was diagnosed with severe bronchioecstasis affecting all regions of his lungs. He requires 4 admissions to hospital each year, each for 2 weeks, so that he doesn't rapidly deteriorate and die. At home, he also needs chest phsyiotherapy twice a day, and long courses of antibiotics.
He has three older siblings. His father, a farm labourer, was killed last year in a tractor accident. His mother can't work (for pay, that is) because she has severe heart damage from having had rheumatic fever as a child - another disease of poverty. She is being considered for surgery to replace a valve in her heart. Meanwhile she is trying to manage on an invalids benefit.
But she faces a futile struggle. Benefit levels for families were already too low to cover everyday costs, even before the latest big increases in the costs of basic foods and petrol (which flows through into pretty much everything). Electricity has gone up by around 60 percent over the last five years. It was not having enough money to pay the power bill that ended the life of Fole Muliaga last year.
Housing costs are through the roof, and the rate of home ownership here is now at the same low level as in Britain, under 50% - only they have a lot more public housing than we do, and it's less plagued by cold and damp.
The government has announced a big drive to bring state houses up to scratch in terms of warmth and dryness. This will be a big help in preventing the kinds of illnesses poor children are suffering from so badly - but only for those lucky enough to live in state houses, and providing they're not sharing them with one or more other families who can't find anything else they can afford.
The levels of poverty among children that we're still seeing in New Zealand are causing lifelong damage to far too many children. Paid work, even propped up by subsidies that we mustn't call benefits, is not going to fix this shameful problem. To stop the kind of suffering we saw on Monday night, we need new answers - but we won't get them unless we keep asking for them.
For the full picture of what's wrong and some ideas on how to fix it, read the new report by the Child Poverty Action Group, Left Behind: how social and income inequalities damage our children. (See http://www.cpag.org.nz/resources/ for a summary and how to order a copy.)
PS: My husband's doing much better now, so we've got our fingers crossed that nothing else will trip us up for a while. But we're lucky - we live in a warm dry house, and (so far) we can afford the power for his oxygen machine. If we couldn't, he wouldn't be here.