The kids with no bed of their own

Many sleep on the floor; appeal launched to provide new beds.

Thousands of Kiwi children who don’t have their own bed to sleep in end up in hospital every year – and a leading New Zealand charity is worried the flu and continuing Covid-19 pandemic will only make it worse this winter.

Susan Glasgow, CEO of Variety – the Children’s Charity, says one in 10 children in the poorest communities don’t have their own bed, while every year 28,000 young Kiwis are hospitalised, many with respiratory illnesses caused by poor sleeping conditions.

“This year could be even worse,” she says. “Our worry is this situation will be exacerbated because immunity to the flu may be lower in the community – and new strains of Covid may spread as the border re-opens.”

To try and alleviate this crisis Variety has launched its winter appeal seeking to raise $400,000 for the Healthy Home Initiative (HHI) to provide new beds and bedding for 1100 kids who would otherwise have to sleep on the floor or share a bed.

“This is double the number of children we helped last year,” Glasgow says. “There is huge need out there and we could easily help twice as many as this. We are limited only by the amount of funding we receive.”

She says many children are forced to share a bed with other family members or take turns at sleeping on the couch, the floor or a mold mattress.

“This makes them prone to contagious respiratory illnesses (such as pneumonia, bronchitis and strep throat) often leading to life-threatening illnesses like asthma and rheumatic fever,” she says. “These frequently require hospital admissions for treatment. Ironically, it is in hospital they do get to be in a warm bed.

“If a child is sick or in hospital it can have a ripple effect with more days off school, more visits to the doctor. It also has an impact on their care-givers who may have to take days off work to look after them. “

Glasgow says a bed and bedding pack (duvet cover, sheets and pillow-cases) costs $343 and a bunk with bedding pack $688. A bedding pack on its own is $80 and a blanket $45.

“We urgently need help because children in poverty bear the brunt of winter illnesses,” she says.

Nik Gregg, co-founder of an HHI provider, Sustainability Options, says the partnership with Variety has made a massive difference for children and their families.

“The spread and impact of colds, flus, strep throat, skin infections and other illnesses are enhanced by close face contact which in turn is exacerbated by children and whanau sleeping in one location,” he says.

“New beds with new mattresses have not been populated by dust, dust mites, bacteria, dampness or mold spores and enable us to give children the best possible start to a healthy sleeping environment where they benefit from their own ‘face space’.

“It’s important that each family member have their own sleeping ‘face space’ when unwell so that illness cannot be easily transmitted,” he says. “We do fear new versions of the flu that may be more free-ranging will greatly impact whanau.”

Gregg says the social impact of having their own bed is also important to the safety, security and growth of a child.

“Beds are a wonderfully practical way of demonstrating we care and of providing children their own safe zone. The delight we see when a child has their own bed is truly heart-warming; it is something many of us take for granted but is hugely appreciated by those who don’t have their own bed.”

Glasgow says those who urgently need beds and bedding before winter include:

  • Two little brothers who share a blanket and sleep on a particle board floor in a damp, cold room. Both have skin infections, constantly have colds and often complain about feeling damp. One brother has been in and out of hospital with recurring lung infections.
  • Two children, one of whom sleeps with grandparents, the other on a broken bed with a mold mattress.
  • A 14-year-old boy who has been sharing a trundle bed with his brother. The bed recently broke and he has since been sleeping on the floor in a shared room or in the lounge. His mother often finds him asleep sitting up on the floor.

To help keep Kiwi kids out of hospital by ensuring they have their own bed and bedding visit: https://heartlink.variety.org.nz/donation/ to make a donation.

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