Quick DFAT funding to Pacific vital, but remember – COVID is a global crisis

World Vision Australia has welcomed the Australian Government’s $100 million emergency funding to support Pacific countries hit by the double-whammy of COVID-19 and the devastating Cyclone Harold.

Acting CEO Graham Strong called for transparency on how the aid budget would be repurposed during a time when the global COVID-19 crisis required a global response.

“Our Pacific neighbours are important – so is the rest of rest of the world,” Mr Strong said. “I understand this $100 million is being taken from other aid programs, but it is unclear where from exactly. With such little information, we can’t have a frank discussion about the important trade-offs within a limited aid budget.”

He repeated World Vision’s call for the Australian Government to contribute $84 million to the COVID-19 international humanitarian response. He repeated World Vision’s call for the Australian Government to stand in solidarity with rest of the world and contribute its fair share to the UN COVID-19 international humanitarian response.

Mr Strong said the money for the Pacific was desperately needed in nations struggling under the weight of lockdowns, crippling debt, tourism industry collapse and the destruction of Harold.

“The funding is an important piece of the road to recovery for the Pacific region, but it is only one part of the puzzle,” he said.

WVA advocates for Australia’s support plan to address three key areas:

• Scale up immediate humanitarian assistance

• Provide an ‘economic bridge’ to the other side of the crisis for Pacific businesses and households

• Build the long-term resilience of Pacific communities and health systems to withstand future shocks like COVID-19

WVA also welcomed reports that the $2 billion Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific will factor in potential employment and health outcomes in assessing the infrastructure projects it will fund.

Mr Strong urged the Government go a step further and broaden the scope of the financing facility so it can provide concessional loans for struggling small businesses in the region, not just infrastructure projects.

“This economic bridge saves lives and livelihoods,” Mr Strong said.

“The Australian Government has done a great job domestically by creating a ‘bridge’ so businesses can survive and then thrive on the other side of the pandemic, and this is exactly what the Pacific needs.

“Australia has established a loan facility which can be readily repurposed to provide much needed concessional loans for Pacific businesses.”

World Vision is responding to the devastating impact of COVID-19 in more than 70 countries with a $AU548 million response that aims to reach 72 million people – half of them children.

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