During an unprecedented era of need across the globe, the federal budget announcement of a freeze on foreign aid is a major setback to humanitarian efforts and will only bring further distress to communities and countries in crisis.
Successive governments have already slashed more than $11 billion from the Australian Aid budget, impacting tens of thousands of people around the world, including children and their families who live in countries with ongoing conflict and disaster such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
Protecting our Australian Aid program is key to ensuring stability in our region and the world, and contributes to our security. Funding boosts to other areas within our federal budget should not come at the expense of the world’s most vulnerable.
Here's just five of the things we did over the past few years to protect children around the world with Australian Aid funding; some of which will not be afforded over the next one.
1. Protecting Bangladeshi children from abuse.
Today, there are more than 60 million children in Bangladesh. Poverty in rural areas continues to be higher and more extreme than in urban areas, but the rapid growth of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, has led to the expansion of already sprawling slums. Many children are malnourished, forced into child labour or at risk of abuse and exploitation. The children of sex workers in Bangladesh are especially vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and neglect. Our Comprehensive Child Protection for Children of Sex Workers program, supported by Australian Aid, aims to improve the quality and consistency of care and protection for children whose mothers are involved in sex work, and for children who are affected by HIV and AIDS. In 2013 alone, we reached more than 600 children and adults with quality education and protection interventions. Find out more information on these programs.
2. Reducing infant, child and maternal mortality rates in Laos.
Over the past 25+ years, we’ve helped more children in Laos survive past five years old, provided remote villages with access to healthcare, and led the way on changing people’s behaviour towards children. In Laos, we work with local authorities to strengthen their health systems and capacity of staff, so more children and mothers can access life-saving care. Thanks to our partnership with local, district and provincial health departments, infant, child and maternal mortality rates in the provinces that we work in through our Primary Health Care program are the lowest in the country.
3. Provide life-saving support to Ethiopia’s children.
We've been working hard to create positive change for children in Ethiopia since 1984. Our short-term programs provide urgent assistance during emergencies and our long-term programs improve health, education and child protection services. Only 44% of the population has access to clean water, almost 30% of children are underweight, and harmful traditional practices continue to violate children's rights. Save the Children currently runs maternal and child health and child protection programs, combatting early child marriage and improve maternal and child health services to prevent unnecessary mother and child deaths. Find out more information on these programs.
4. Rebuilding Fijian homes, schools and community infrastructure post Cyclone Winston
In February 2016, Category-5 Cyclone Winston tore through Fiji. It devastated many parts of the island nation and left 34,000 people without homes. The cyclone was the most powerful to ever hit in Fiji. Schools, homes and community infrastructure were destroyed and 44 lives were lost. Save the Children Fiji, with the support of Save the Children Australia, was quick to respond. In partnership with the Australian Government, we were able to reach 19,725 children. Aside from shelter, water and food, one of the most important things for children in emergencies is getting back to school. We repaired water sources and toilets in 86 schools, and set up temporary learning centres so children wouldn’t miss out on an education.
5. Protecting children in Nepal affected by armed conflict
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Although the number of poor people has halved in only seven years, more than one in three people still live in extreme poverty – surviving on less than $1 per day. With children as young as eight years old recruited as child soldiers during the civil war, thousands of children have experienced extreme trauma, have been excluded or separated from families and communities, and have missed school for extended periods. Over the last seven years, we’ve supported more than 25,500 children affected by armed conflict in Nepal. In 2012 alone, our Nepal Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups project, supported by Australian Aid, provided educational support to 3,000 children, income-generation support to 1,500 children, and psychosocial support to 4,000 children. We also helped reintegrate these children back into their families and communities. Find out more information on these programs.
These are just five examples of work that Save the Children is doing, with the assistance of government-funded foreign aid. We conduct programs just like these in more than 30 countries around the world.
Right now, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his team in Canberra are making a choice: which group of children will receive the life-saving assistance they require to learn, survive and thrive. If you were in their position, what would you choose?