THE Ministry of Social Welfare believes the number of people living below the poverty line has increased since the 2003 survey.
Permanent secretary for the ministry, Dr Ami Chandra said poverty has increased from 34 per cent in the 2003 national survey.
"I believe it has gone up now but I don't know by how much it has gone up," he said.
Dr Chandra said the ministry was waiting for statistics from the Household Expenditure survey to determine the extent of poverty in the country.
The result is expected to be ready by the end of the year.
Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy (ECREA) feels the recent increase in bus fares has also affected some students.
ECREA's Father Kevin Barr said about 40 per cent of people were living in poverty.
He said with the increase in butter, milk and fuel prices, life was becoming hard.
Meanwhile, in Suva yesterday, Sister Patricia McLaughlin of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul convent in Nausori said they helped more than 500 poverty-stricken students this year alone.
Sr Patricia was selling books at the Republic of Cappuccino (ROC) Market at the the Dolphin Plaza in Suva.
She said money collected would be used to pay for schools fees.
"I might collect $170 to $200 today and it will go towards paying two students' fees."
"We have been helping students with their uniforms, bus fares and fees," Sr Patricia said.
She said these were kindergarten, primary, secondary and tertiary-level students from the Central Division.
Sr Patricia came to Fiji in 2000 for two years but opted to stay on.
"I volunteered to come here and decided to stay on," Sr Patricia said.
"We also fundraise for the same reason."
Sister Patricia said she had seen many students move ahead in life after acquiring tertiary education.
"No money can pay you back the satisfaction you get after seeing the success of these students," she said.
She said it was sad to see students coming to the convent with sad stories, seeking help.
"We don't give preference to any culture or denomination when they ask for help," she said.