The Australian government pledged $19 million AUD Wednesday toward “improving the health of Pacific populations,” a move that cements the nation's status as a champion for global health security.
The funding is expected to support infection control efforts, tackle disease and childhood obesity, and assist medical research and medicines testing. Australia’s Minister for Health Greg Hunt, who made the announcement at the Pacific Health Ministers Meeting in Tahiti, said the funds would “benefit the people of the Pacific now and into the future.”
Over 65% — or $13 million — of the commitment will go toward eradication efforts for the deadly tuberculosis disease.
"Our government’s investment will help control and eliminate TB in the South East Asia and Pacific region, a communicable disease that can cross borders, seas, and continents,” Hunt announced in a media release. “The health, prosperity, and resilience of Australia and countries in our neighborhood are deeply intertwined.”
Included in the $13 million is $5 million for TB care and detection efforts and $8 million to aid research into drug-resistant TB strains. Australia will also work with regional nations to enact “evidence-based TB elimination strategies.”
From this, the Australian Government has committed $13m to help support global efforts in eliminating TB in the region - the world’s most common cause of death from a single infectious disease, and tenth most common cause of death worldwide.— Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP) August 7, 2019
TB is one of the world’s most dangerous diseases.
According to the World Health Organization, TB is the deadliest infectious disease and the 10th most common cause of death globally. In 2017, around 10 million people fell sick and 1.6 million people died from the disease.
Almost 60% of new TB infections each year are reported in the Indo-Pacific region. Rates are particularly poor in Papua New Guinea — Australia’s closest neighbor — with 30,000 additional cases recorded each year. Two thousand of these new cases involve the drug-resistant strain of the disease.
For years, Global Citizen has worked with partners to campaign for increased funds to tackle the crisis.
Sarah Meredith, Australian country director at Global Citizen, was in attendance for the funding statement and has welcomed the “exciting new announcement.”
"Global Citizen is proud to partner with RESULTS Australia, which has lead the TB caucus to call for increased investment from Australia to fight TB in the Indo-Pacific,” she said. “We welcome this exciting new announcement from Australia, which is a great next step and signal that Australia continues to show leadership on global health security.”
CEO of RESULTS Australia Amelia Christie has similarly applauded the government on its “good first step.”
"We welcome this announcement and appreciate the focus of the monetary commitment to research on anti-microbial resistance and drug-resistant TB as well as detection and treatment,” she wrote in a media release. “It is a good first step towards eradicating the disease in the Indo-Pacific region of the world.”
WATCH: Australia has pledged $19 M to improve the health of Pacific populations — including $13 M to combat tuberculosis! Minister for Health in 🇦🇺 @GregHuntMP says the new funds respond to the actions of Global Citizens!! 👏🏼 ⭕️ @dfat@CentreHealthSec@healthgovau@MarisePaynepic.twitter.com/sof7psBjgc— GlobalCitizenAU🇦🇺 (@GlblCtznAU) August 9, 2019
Meredith also thanked thousands of Global Citizens for taking action and calling on countries to step up funds against the disease. Her thanks were echoed by Hunt, who recorded a video message detailing how Australia’s new commitment responds to the actions from Global Citizens for nations to increase funds.
"[This] practical action to help save lives and protect lives responds to the call from Global Citizen for nations around the world to take action on TB,” Hunt announced.
The campaigning, Meredith announced, doesn’t end here.
Additional funds are needed to fulfill Hunt’s previous call for an end to TB in the Asia Pacific region by 2030. Global Citizen and partners are now calling on Australia to increase its contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.
“Thank you to Global Citizens who have been taking action to call on countries such as Australia to also make a commitment to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB, and Malaria,” Meredith stated. “We hope that the Australian government will make a renewed commitment to this later this year, particularly given they have been one of the strongest supporters to date.”
“It is a critical point in time. Hopefully this step up in the Pacific will see real outcomes in the fight against TB,” she added.