SOME families in Maghera are in such absolute poverty that they do not have any food for their children, a meeting in the town has heard.
A focus group has vowed to do all it can to help ease the desperate plight of local families.
A survey by End Poverty Now estimated that 35 percent of children in Maghera are growing up in poverty.
The statistic shocked local people and prompted the meeting which took place in St Lurach Centre this week.
The group brought together local councillors, the public health agency, children’s locality, RCN, RDC, PSNI, Barnardos, Magherafelt Advice Centre and a number of community representatives.
Aidan Campbell from RCN told those assembled that it was difficult to pinpoint poverty in a rural setting.
He explained how government tended to use multiple deprivation criteria which were always more obvious in large sprawling urban estates than in scattered rural communities.
Anne Marie McStocker, Networks Involving Communities in Health Improvement, explained how child poverty was a whole community issue that could only be solved by whole communities.
Josie McGuckin, CWSAN, outlined the results of a special research project on child poverty which she had conducted in Maghera.
The general thrust of the research was that people were shocked at the statistics but recognised that many children and their families were suffering from poverty.
There was poverty related to income, nutrition, clothing, heating, housing, education and health and worse than that, the poor were excluded by virtue of their own poverty.
She said interviewees felt that child poverty in Maghera was caused by unemployment, low wages, substance abuse, lack of affordable childcare, poor transport and poor investment locally.
The group left the meeting determined to continue the focus on poverty.
They were determined to increase the availability of food banks/food coupons, home oil buying schemes, to create greater awareness of the issue. Local councillors supported the event.
SDLP Councillor Kate Lagan said: “I am determined that his should not be just a talking shop but that the practical help and support which is so urgently needed can be accessed.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Kerr welcomed the event, saying it helped raise awareness of hidden rural poverty which has largely gone unnoticed by policy makers.
Earlier this year, a new report from the End Child Poverty campaign, found that Northern Ireland had some of the highest figures
Out of the UK’s 650 parliamentary constituencies, only Manchester Central recorded a higher level of deprivation.
The survey found that 43 per cent of children grow up in poverty in West Belfast.
When local authorities across the UK were analysed, Londonderry and Belfast councils were placed fourth and fifth, with rates of poverty at 35 per cent and 34 per cent in their council areas.