A survey of 1,056 Australians by World Vision shows 61% support the Australian government expanding overseas humanitarian and development funding to tackle COVID-19; while 79% are worried about a global second wave; and 82% fear everyday life in Australia will not resume if outbreaks remain globally.
The polling has been used by World Vision to leverage enduring calls for an overall increase to the international aid budget.
In May, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and International Development Minister Alex Hawke announced they planned to redirect $280 million from the existing aid budget to assist the vital health and humanitarian demands of the Pacific region during the pandemic.
World Vision Australia’s CEO Graham Strong said the redirection would likely come at the expense of other aid programs.
Strong has instead urged the government to commit new aid funding to the United Nations’ (UN) Global Humanitarian Response Plan, an appeal to protect individuals in vulnerable and conflict-affected nations from COVID-19.
"Only a fifth of the UN appeal has been met. Without adequate assistance, the world’s most fragile countries will be ill-equipped, risking a rolling cycle of lockdowns,” he said in a World Vision media release. “This is going to be a particularly acute challenge in Australia’s region where 17 of 20 of our closest neighbours are developing countries.”
Australian Council for International Development (AFCID) Chief Executive Marc Purcell echoed Strong’s comments.
Purcell, whose organisation commissioned the survey, highlighted that if COVID-19 deaths mirror the 1918 influenza pandemic — and if world leaders fail to protect vulnerable groups — more than 1.5 million could die from a second wave.
"Australia has a pre-COVID development budget for a COVID world,” he said in a media release. “We have a leading role to play to help prevent a merry-go-round of lockdowns and suffering. Our response should not depend on running down other initiatives.”
Since COVID-19 first emerged, Australia has committed hundreds of millions to global COVID-19 relief.
In May, $352 million was pledged to a European Union-led coronavirus vaccine research fund and, in August, $80 million was committed to COVAX AMC — a collaboration that ensures equitable and affordable access to a prospective COVID-19 vaccine for the world’s poorest countries.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the government is also currently working on a plan that would see aid funding go toward COVID-19 recovery initiatives in Southeast Asia. It is currently unclear whether the recovery plan will be funded from within the existing aid budget.