The European Union (EU) will provide €3 million EUR to help enhance health security throughout the Pacific.
The new funding, announced on Wednesday by EU Ambassador Sujiro Seam, will work to strengthen the Pacific’s capacity to monitor, diagnose, and respond to diseases, enhance risk communication, and improve laboratory services.
According to Seam, the funding will go to Pacific Community (SPC) — an international development organization owned and governed by 26 Pacific nations — and be distributed by SPC’s public health division.
"Within the past few months, we have all sadly been reminded that diseases continue to pose a very real risk to the population of the Pacific. The EU provided assistance to face the recent measles outbreak, but long term support is necessary to strengthen health systems,” Seam said in a media release. “The EU is partnering with SPC through this project to strengthen health security in the Pacific by improving public health surveillance and response.”
Seam added: “This project is part of a larger EU initiative with a Pacific allocation of $18 million. The EU recognizes that improvements in health also help reduce poverty and drive inclusive economic growth.”
MEDIA RELEASE: The European Union (EU) has provided EUR 3 million (FJD 7.2 million) to the Pacific Community @spc_cps to strengthen health security in the Pacific.— EU Pacific 🇪🇺 (@EUPasifika) February 19, 2020
Read ➡️ https://t.co/teAIdUBgitpic.twitter.com/0BGP9XsTsH
The Pacific is home to nations with some of the worst health status’ in the world.
Acccording to the World Health Organization, many Pacific Islanders lack easy access to basic health services, and 800,000 children go unvaccinated in the region each year. Infant mortality rates remain high, while life expectancies remain low. Malaria and tuberculosis (TB) continue to cause havoc — with 18% of new TB infections each year reported in the Western Pacific region.
Likewise, in recent years, vaccine-derived poliovirus was reported in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea for the first time in decades. At the same time, Samoa was forced to call a national emergency following an intense outbreak of measles — a vaccine-preventable disease.
The new funding announcement comes just days after it was revealed Australia, one of the Pacific’s closest neighbors, had slashed aid spending on health in the Pacific and Southeast Asia to spend more on regional infrastructure projects.
Over the past five years, Australian aid funding for health programs was cut by 75%, 36%, and 22% in the Cook Islands, Samoa, and Fiji, respectively. Meanwhile, $2 billion AUD was unlocked to spend on a Pacific infrastructure financing facility.
Australia, however, is still the largest overall aid donor in the Pacific — followed by China and New Zealand. The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, French development agency Agence Française de Développement, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also all major contributors.