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"It's just ridiculous - if there was a new pill they would spend the money.If there was a pill as effective as good quality housing the health sector would spend the money so why don't they spend it on this?Nurses were funded to assess houses, but then the money dried up, with families relying on charity or their landlord to provide the required provisions such as curtains, bedding, or insulation.

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Despite the difficulties, the ministry considered the project a success and many more thousands of families were expected to benefit in the coming years, particularly with "vulnerable" families now included in risk criteria.

Health minister Jonathan Coleman said the housing interventions would be continued as part of the government's new target of reducing avoidable child hospitalisations by 25 per cent in five years.

"It's a Third-World disease, the kind of thing that if you were going to see it, the patients would be in their eighties," says respiratory paediatrician Cass Byrnes, from Starship children's hospital.

"Internationally people are astonished at the numbers we have here.

While an average 60 per cent of those who needed them received curtains or floor coverings, only 34 per cent of recommended insulation was installed.

Just 25 per cent of families nominated for new houses were able to move due to the housing crisis.

Kierra, 5, was among 99 children to be diagnosed with the condition that year.

Rates have kept climbing since, and now 300 New Zealand kids have a disease that should be confined to geriatrics.

Health data shows the hospitalisation numbers are climbing.

Respiratory conditions in particular - like bronchiolitis and asthma - are causing more hospitalisations each year, with the most severe such as a "third world" disease named bronchiectasis leaving irreparable damage in babies' lungs.

An average 20 children die and 30,000 are hospitalised every year from preventable, housing-related diseases like asthma, pneumonia and bronchiolitis, health statistics show.


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