‘Terrifying’ Humanitarian catastrophe brewing on Australia’s doorstep

Save the Children welcomes today’s announcement by the Federal Government of support for our neighbors in Papua New Guinea as they face a devastating Covid-19 outbreak.

The 8,000 AstraZeneca doses to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers, essential personal protective and request to the EU to access a further one million doses of AstraZeneca for PNG is a critical and timely contribution to help ward off the terrifying humanitarian catastrophe brewing on Australia’s doorstep.

Save the Children Papua New Guinea’s Western Province Area Manager Bernadette Yakopa said the vaccine commitment was vital as the COVID outbreak will prove devastating in some areas if fast action is not taken.

“The current situation is terrifying, children in the Western Province already have weak immune systems because of chronic malnutrition and are already highly susceptible to tuberculosis.

“The latest outbreak makes everything worse. Education, water and sanitation, violence prevention and health awareness all get made more challenging by COVID.

“Do the math; tuberculosis, plus chronic malnutrition, plus gender based violence, plus lack of education, plus COVID equals disaster,” Ms Yakopa said.

Save the Children Australia’s Deputy CEO Mat Tinkler said this morning’s intervention by the Prime Minister is timely, strategic and the right thing to do.

“We should be doing everything in our power to support what the Prime Minister has dubbed our ‘Pacific family’. PNG was there for Australia in our ‘hour of need’ in WWII, and we must be there for PNG now. It’s fantastic to see Australia showing this regional leadership.

“Children and their families face daily and life-threatening consequences of the COVID outbreak in PNG. Parents are struggling to provide food and shelter and young girls are being forced to abandon their education and pushed into child marriage. Violence in the home, already at endemic levels, is increasing.

However, while this urgent health intervention is very welcome, Australia’s support can’t end there.

“There’s no such thing as JobKeeper or JobSeeker in PNG, and the health crisis is masking an underlying crisis of poverty that’s only being exacerbated by COVID.

“Australia must work with the PNG Government to invest at scale in social protection measures so lives and livelihoods are supported in this unprecedented crisis.

“Save the Children is on the ground, working in communities across the vast span of PNG to support the needs of children and their families. We stand ready now to do whatever it takes to scale up our support to the PNG government and our community partners,” Mr Tinkler said.

Save the Children staff in PNG are embedded in health authorities throughout the country, work in over 1000 schools and are present in 65% of the country with programs remaining operational during the Covid-19 crisis.

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