In 2023, Vanuatu witnessed a surge in Child Maintenance Cases, totalling 128, marking a 37 increase compared to the previous year’s 91 cases.

This increase, while indicating a growing awareness of available legal services, has also sparked concerns regarding the adequacy of support provided, with the fee set at a mere Vatu (VT) 1,000 per child per week.

Enacted in 1966, well before independence, the Maintenance of Children Act was later consolidated in 2006. Despite its historical significance, many now question its relevance in today’s socio-economic landscape.

The Vanuatu Daily Post engaged with several individuals, predominantly mothers, all echoing similar apprehensions regarding the minimal financial provision.

“The allocated VT1,000 falls significantly short,” lamented one mother, emphasising the escalating inflation rates and the contemporary financial demands. The expenses associated with childcare, from diapers to formula milk, far exceed the allotted amount, leaving families financially strained.

For infants, a single pack of diapers costs between VT900 and VT950, while a tin of milk varies from VT2,000 to VT2400, typically lasting only a week if breastfeeding isn’t an option. Moreover, essential items like baby oils, wipes, and foods all exceed the VT1,000.

“As the child grows, so do the expenses,” affirmed one interviewed mother, highlighting additional costs such as school fees, uniforms, and daily meals. “VT1000 barely covers bus fare for a week, let alone other necessities.”

Voices advocating for change propose an upward revision of the maintenance fee to at least VT3,000 or higher, aligning it with the current cost of living. “Personally, with today’s cost of living, VT1,000 is equivalent to VT100, one cannot do much with VT1,000,” remarked one interviewee.

The consensus among interviewees underlines the urgent need for legislative amendments to ensure that the Maintenance of Children Act reflects contemporary standards of living.

As families grapple with mounting expenses, a re-evaluation of child maintenance provisions emerges as a pressing necessity for the welfare of Vanuatu’s children and families.