Save the Children has applauded the Australian Government’s pledge to provide $500 million in additional aid funding to help Pacific and South East Asian countries roll out immunisation programs to cover their entire populations against COVID-19.
Save the Children Deputy CEO, Mat Tinkler said the move showed that Australia was there for its neighbours, and he hoped to see further Pacific aid investment in the form of social security measures.
“This funding is extremely welcome news, ensuring that if and when a vaccine is created, our Pacific neighbours will be able to access it,” Mr Tinkler said.
“COVID-19 won’t be over for anyone until it’s over for everyone, and this funding ensures Australia is helping play its part.
“It is particularly pleasing to see that the funding is in addition to the foreign aid budget, which has been repeatedly cut in recent years.
“Adequate and secure distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine is essential, particularly for those countries without the resources to orchestrate a mass vaccination campaign.
“Australia has a duty to step up and support it’s Pacific neighbours. This is an important step in the right direction.
“However, a vaccine is still a long way off and the pandemic is expected to push a further half a million people in the Pacific into poverty. Pacific economies – many heavily reliant on tourism – have been decimated.
“Until a vaccine is ready, Australia must significantly increase its support for the poorest children and families in the Pacific, who don’t have the benefit of JobKeeper or JobSeeker.
“Just like Australians, parents in the Pacific who have lost their livelihood need support now to keep their heads above the poverty line.
“We are urging Australia to work with the Pacific to create a social protection system that reaches the poorest children and families. Strong social intervention would save lives now and is in Australia’s strategic interests.”
In a recent survey of children and parents in the Pacific, supported by Save the Children, 77 percent of parents told us they recently had trouble paying for food and 40 per cent said they recently lost income due to the pandemic.
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.
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