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Australia has pledged $5.5 million AUD to the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) in an effort to support food security in the Asia-Pacific region amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

The announcement comes as part of the Australian government’s partnership with the Pacific Islands Forum, a political and economic policy organisation comprising 18 Pacific countries.

The new funds will contribute to the forum’s Pacific Humanitarian Pathway, an initiative that was born out of disruptions to the global supply chain as a result of COVID-19 and that aims to ensure humanitarian and medical supplies effectively reach vulnerable populations throughout the Pacific. 

Simon Kofe, Tuvalu's Foreign Minister and the chair of the Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers, thanked Australia for its contribution to ensure the safe delivery of critical medical supplies via air transport.

Kofe said Australia’s support will also enable in-depth research to occur on COVID’s impact on food security in the region.

“Australia’s support will ensure that the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway will be able to deliver much needed humanitarian and medical supplies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said in a media release. “Through its actions, Australia is working to achieve values of familial ties and care for neighbours key throughout the Pacific.”

On the same day Australia announced the new WFP funding, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne pledged $3.5 million to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Pacific Health Sector Support Plan.

Phase two of the COVID-19 Pacific Health Sector Support Plan will shift focus away from the former preparedness plan to instead focus on measures around containment, mitigation and recovery, as well as the continued delivery of health advice and supplies.

“We welcome Australia’s strong support for the Pacific’s regional response to COVID-19,” said Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Dame, Meg Taylor, in a media release. “We are working together to deliver an efficient and effective Pacific Humanitarian Pathway, and are ensuring Pacific voices and ownership are at the heart of our response to COVID-19.”

This latest funding injection into the Pacific follows a long list of recent commitments. 

Australia already injected $1.1 million into the WHO’s Pacific response plan in March. Similarly, over the past few weeks, Australia has committed $300 million to fund vaccines globally and $352 million to a European Union-led coronavirus vaccine research fund. 

In June, Canberra announced it was redirecting $280 million from its international aid budget to focus on the urgent health and humanitarian needs of the Pacific and Southeast Asia amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Defeat Poverty

Australia Commits Millions More to the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme

By Madeleine Keck