Australia’s additional, temporary measure welcome but miniscule in context of largest humanitarian crisis of our time
Save the Children Australia has warned that the wellbeing of children and stability and security of our region is at risk without greater leadership from Australia in the face of the economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020-21 Federal Budget kept Australia’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) contribution at $4 billion (0.21% Gross National Income) despite the profound impact COVID-19 is having in our region.
The Budget includes an additional $304.7 million measure of critical but temporary economic support, targeting the Pacific and Timor-Leste to address the costs of the pandemic.
Save the Children CEO, Paul Ronalds said while the additional funding was welcome, it was not the leadership required.
“The additional $304 million in temporary economic support for the Pacific and Timor Leste is very welcome.
“But when put in the context of the greatest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime, it is not the leadership we were hoping for.
“After years of devastating cuts, Australia’s foreign aid budget is simply not enough to meet the human needs in region, nor serve Australia’s strategic interests at this time.”
It is expected that 2.8 million people in the Pacific will be forced to survive on less than $2 a day as the pandemic plunges a further half a million people into extreme poverty.
“There is no such thing as JobKeeper in the Pacific, and that means parents can’t afford to put food on the table or buy medicine for their children.”
“Just like Australians, parents in the Pacific who have lost their livelihood need support now to keep their heads above the poverty line.”
As the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Senator Marise Payne reflected,
“COVID-19 is having a profound impact on our region. The growth, openness and stability of the Indo-Pacific, which has underpinned Australia’s prosperity and security for decades, is challenged by these impacts.”
“No one can afford instability in our region as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus, and that’s what we’re facing,” said Mr Ronalds.
“The cost of this crisis to Australia, and Australians, will be far greater in the longer term if we don’t act decisively now to support our neighbours.”
Save the Children Australia will continue to put forward constructive, reasonable measures to the Australian Government which meet the region’s most urgent humanitarian needs as well as Australia’s long term strategic interests.
Only one infrastructure project funded through the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP) has been announced, representing a missed opportunity.
“Save the Children Australia proposed that the AIFFP be used to fund social infrastructure, education, health and social protection measures to help meet the immediate and most pressing need.”
Save the Children Australia strongly welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment towards guaranteeing the safe and equitable access to vaccines in our region.
“We know that this health, economic and social crisis will not be over for any of us, until it is over for all of us.”
For media inquiries contact Anna Jabour on 0403 322 992.