COVID-19 aid rethink welcome, but must go beyond our immediate region – CEO

World Vision today welcomed the Australian Government’s plan Partnerships for Recovery which outlines how Australia will support its regional neighbours through COVID-19 but renewed its call that this global crisis requires a global response.

“Nobody planned on a global pandemic on this scale but our urgent priority is making sure that we do all we can to support our neighbours in the Indo-Pacific and vulnerable nations globally,” said World Vision Acting CEO, Graham Strong.

“In the context of COVID-19, partnerships – with our neighbours, the international community and NGOS – are more important than ever.”

“This rethink includes stepping up to help communities in the Indo-Pacific region recover from COVID-19, along with a renewed commitment to protect the most vulnerable, especially women and girls and people with disabilities and those living in poverty, which are strong positives – though we’d also like to see children identified as a priority,” Mr Strong said.

“We know that violence against children is a significant social challenge in the region, especially during and after lockdowns, but this gets forgotten when children aren’t prioritised.”

World Vision also welcomed Australia’s support for measures to curb COVID-19’s spread in Bangladesh’s crowded Cox’s Bazar, with the Rohingya refugee crisis being the largest and most complex in the Indo-Pacific.

“The report goes beyond a focus on COVID-19, taking a holistic approach to health security in the region by continuing to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which World Vision is pleased to see,” Mr Strong said. “We also welcome streamlining the design and monitoring of aid projects because that helps organisations like ours to focus on responding to emerging needs.”

“World Vision is fully committed to supporting the government to address the COVID crisis. As multi-mandated agencies working across both development and humanitarian issues, NGOs are uniquely placed to support this effort.”

The CEO expressed concerned about Minister Hawke’s statement that $280m will be diverted from the existing development funding to address critical COVID-19 impacts in the region.

“World Vision also calls for greater transparency on what programs are being defunded. What we absolutely don’t want is for underfunding in one area to lead to other crises while we deal with COVID-19.”

Mr Strong urged the government to avoid narrowly focusing on COVID-19 in the Pacific alone because the pandemic was a global crisis requiring a global response.

“The only global commitment the strategy makes is to support efforts to find a vaccine. This is important, but so is responding to the urgent humanitarian need in hotspots all over the world,” he said.

“We therefore urge the Australian Government to contribute Australia’s fair share to the international humanitarian response.”

Mr Strong also noted that while Partnerships for Recovery acknowledged the risks that climate change and natural disasters present to communities recovering from COVID-19, it was unclear whether climate change adaptation was a priority.

Pic: Parvina and her child at the Cox’s Bazar Refugee Camp, Bangladesh

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