Australia to spend $420 million on improving health care in the Pacific

Sydney, Australia, Feb 23 (EFE).- Australia announced Thursday that it will allocate some AU$ 620 million (around $420 million) to improve health care across Southeast Asia as well as the Pacific, where it is trying to counter China’s growing influence.

“Improving the health and wellbeing of communities across the Pacific and Southeast Asia is critical to ensuring our region’s security, prosperity and stability,” said Australian Foreign Secretary Penny Wong, who is visiting Fiji for a special meeting of leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The five-year multi-million dollar program will be aimed at preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as other non-communicable diseases such as heart diseases.

The program will also target vaccination coverage for diseases including measles and diphtheria that has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to funding research and development of vaccines and drugs for diseases affecting Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the Australian government will also continue investments in sexual and reproductive health and support gender equality, women’s empowerment and the inclusion of people with disabilities.

“Covid-19 has reversed health and development gains in our region, and Australia is working with partners to restore their health systems and build on investments made during the acute phase of the pandemic,” Wong said in a statement.

The investment by the Australian government occurs within the framework of the policy of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – who took office in May 2022 – to regain Australia’s influence in the Pacific in the face of China’s expansion.

This strategic region came into the spotlight in April 2022 when Beijing signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, which allows it to deploy its troops and police to the island nation at Honiara’s request, a pact similar to the one that the Solomonian authorities have with Australia and other allies. EFE


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