As COVID-19 cases surge across the world, Save the Children has warned that Pacific nations are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic.
The leading aid organisation welcomed Prime Minister Morrison’s comments at the G20 Leaders meeting to do “everything we can to support our Pacific family,” through the crisis, but has called for decisive, tangible action by the Australian Government commensurate with the risks faced by Pacific nations.
Save the Children Deputy CEO Mat Tinkler said Australia’s Pacific ‘step-up’ has never been more critical but needs a change in focus to address the COVID-19 crisis.
“The remoteness and isolation of these island nations that should be their salvation may quickly become their damnation. Eight Pacific Islands nations made the global list of the 24 countries that are least ready for a pandemic,” Mr Tinkler said.
“The health systems in most Pacific nations are grossly under-resourced and will struggle to cope with an outbreak of COVID-19. The effects of a widespread outbreak on vulnerable communities in the Pacific, and especially children, could be cataclysmic.”
While the Morrison Government has worked hard in recent years to pivot its aid program towards the Pacific, much of it has focused on infrastructure spending while real levels of investment in health has declined.
“Australia has responded to requests for support and expertise in the Pacific and has shown commendable flexibility in allowing aid organisations to pivot their programs toward a COVID response. However, we’re also seeing emerging donors like China make similar commitments, for example supplying Vanuatu with ventilators, test kits and other key items of equipment.
“This highlights that the same geopolitical considerations that prompted the Pacific ‘step up’ should also apply when responding to this health and economic crisis. We cannot underestimate the long-term benefits of investing in the health systems of our regional neighbours.”
Save the Children has been working in the Pacific for decades and is doing all it can to help communities in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea prepare for the virus, including by promoting hand washing and hygiene, and distributing soap and hand sanitiser.
Additionally, the organisation is shifting programs to virtual platforms where technology permits, to ensure education continuity for vulnerable children.
To support Save the Children Australia’s COVID-19 Crisis Appeal, click here.
For media inquiries contact Licardo Prince on 0401 777 917.