No one is starving here, is the familiar but uncertain catchcry of Fiji's blue-collar workers. Judging by the empty gin bottle outside a corrugated iron shack in one of many squatter communities, or the subwoofer-boasting stereo sitting under the rusty tin roof, they may just be right.
But poverty in Fiji relates not only to food but to social conditions and the biggest impact is on children at the bottom of the social hierarchy, many living in sharp contrast to the exuberance of the beaming children seen in tourism promotions.
It is acknowledged by community groups and other countries but Fijian parents seem to be living firmly in denial.
More than half New Zealand's aid to Fiji last year went towards governance and leadership, while only 11 per cent was spent on health and education.
NZAID spent $5.4 million on the lead-up to Fiji's election last year, which formed a government that no longer exists. Foreign aid, however altruistic, has been used as an instrument of foreign policy in Fiji to ensure regional stability.
Humanitarian aid spent in areas such as child welfare is not a priority in New Zealand's five-year aid plan for Fiji.
Elizabeth Clayton knows the issue well - too well. She left sociology lecturing in Australia two decades ago for a manufacturing career in Fiji.
Four years ago she discovered the Chicken Man, locked in a coop. His story, and Clayton's quest for his rehabilitation continues to get publicity. It was Clayton who founded the Happy Home for neglected and orphaned children.
As she watches the youngsters, to whom she acts as a surrogate mother, frolicking under the seaside sun, her mind turns to children who do not enjoy the same renewed freedom.
She agonises about a father of eight who continues to bash his children. The mother is little better, she says, eyes glistening, but perhaps she is another victim of the battered wife syndrome. Clayton has countless other stories.
"I'm unsure whether New Zealand and Australia appreciate that because of social taboos, things are kept hidden in this pristine haven - incest, molestation and exploitation, to a greater extent than one could imagine
"They are all widespread but under a blanket of silence. In this socially sophisticated culture you're not meant to interfere with the family.
"There are invisible lines you cannot cross. And nepotistically, everyone is related ... it's likely that the policeman sent to investigate your case will be related to the victim or the perpetrator."
Nicole Beck, a child protection training officer, and partner Brendan Hoole, a marketing manager, are American Peace Corps volunteers who wanted to show the Fijian people that Americans "do not just want to exploit their beaches".
They soon became aware that there is room in Fiji for major growth in child welfare and safety.
Last week, the United Nations launched a legislative guide on the Convention on the Rights of the Child for the use of child rights advocates.
The convention has been ratified by Fiji. But because there are hundreds of small islands, most of them remote, social problems are not obvious and difficult to tackle.
Beck says children are not soliciting on the roadside but exploitation exists. "Kids come to Suva from rural areas for an education. There may be a feeling they aren't contributing enough to the family they are staying with so they turn to child labour or sexual exploitation.
"It's not a safe, pretty picture and it's difficult to pinpoint problems. As jobs are scarce, people don't want to report sexual exploitation which occurs in urban and yachting or port areas."
A study on violence, published by Save the Children last year, found that physical punishment was acceptable in Fijian homes and schools and that - endorsed by religion and culture - Fijians have high tolerance for violence.
On an online forum, a Fijian expat wrote: "Just because there are beatings doesn't mean there isn't just as much love." That is exactly the outlook social workers are trying to overcome.
As in New Zealand, corporal punishment is a touchy subject. An influential church has campaigned against Save the Children's efforts to end it. Sticks, and hosepipes with knots, are frequently used.
Fiji's Women's Crisis Centre says that child abuse is worsening and is not confined to a social group. Many children are leaving school to financially support their families. Disturbing findings indicate that one-third of Fiji's sex workers are teenagers.
"In a village, child rights stuff is just a joke," says Hoole about the one in 10 Fijians who live in squatter areas. "Most of those people don't even know the words 'child rights'."
Few child abuse cases are reported to police - some say only about one in 10.
The Pacific Regional Resource Team believes family law in Fiji is archaic. Two years ago law reforms allowed medical practitioners to report abuse but there is still no requirement for them to do so.
"Working with ministries can be tricky," Beck says.
"There are a lot of non-qualified professionals who work in the public service. There are no professional counsellors or mental health experts.
"Human resources are far more valuable than money."
Even when cases are reported, it is often a long time before there is any action - if any at all.
Other factors concern the traditional family structure. Women who sacrifice careers for childrearing do not receive any financial support from the government.
A quarter of af all Fijians are unemployed and most are living below New Zealand's poverty line. Food prices are astronomical and Fiji's former subsistence-based living conflicts with modernisation.
Those who can't afford a trip to the supermarket, and who don't grow their own produce - especially young families with children on isolated, unfertile islands - cannot provide for themselves. There is no central welfare agency.
There is also the brain-drain to contend with. Good social workers migrate, leaving others to fill the gaps.
Fiji does not contract social work to external providers, as is often the case in New Zealand.
Successive Fijian administrations have been incapable of making headway without foreign aid.
If those gaps in provision aren't filled internally, overseas aid and non-governmental organisations attempt to fill them. "People continuously come in from the outside," Clayton says, "people who never have any idea of what's happening on the ground.
"It is essentially a dictatorship of non-governmental organisations, who we have never heard from until now. It's real big brother stuff."
It is understood that in the wake of the most recent coup, Australia's state aid body, AusAID, cut back its funding for Fiji and reduced the number of staff and volunteers.
This has angered volunteers who feel the move is hurting those they should aim to help.
NZAID says has cut its aid to Fiji by half, from $8 million to $4 million and has frozen programmes in Fiji and is reviewing them.
Included is NZAID's scholarships for Fijian students. It is understood that NZAID is even considering sending students home.
But child poverty is distinctive in that grants, funds and even child sponsorships achieve little compared with having human resources on the ground.
Clayton has big aspirations for her children. She wants them to find a vocation that fulfils them. She hopes they will keep the values she has instilled in them.
Most important, she wants all Fijian children to have a caring family of their own, the family these children never really had.
"A critical mass of people have feathered their own nests," Clayton says. "Their bubble must burst.
"The gap is widening and it is the children who are suffering. People cannot be misled by what they read. Fiji needs New Zealand's assistance to get it on track. It may be seen as interference but it's so important.
"When people are desperate here, they just don't refuse help."