Today, the European Commission has announced a new €22 (AUD $36) million programme “Health Support in response to COVID-19 in the Pacific”. The programme will boost the readiness and ability of 15 countries* to effectively combat and protect themselves against the pandemic. It will pay special attention to those living in vulnerable situations.
The programme will support the delivery of essential equipment, medication and services, and enable the countries to better diagnose, treat and manage COVID-19 cases. Early detection of cases remains critical in the Pacific countries, which are highly vulnerable to importation of the disease. This support from the EU aims to ensure they have continuous access to test kits and can promptly identify cases of COVID-19.
Because the number of commercial cargo flights has reduced dramatically, the programme will also contribute to improving air transport services on specific international routes in the Pacific region and Timor-Leste. This will help keep them open for the movement of humanitarian personnel, technical experts, and for urgently needed supplies, such as personal protective equipment and other medical items.
The programme will complement an on-going EU programme that supports Pacific partners’ efforts to build strong, effective and resilient health systems. It will also strengthen surveillance and prevention of zoonotic diseases, and improve collaboration between different sectors, such as the environment, animal health and public health.
With the announcement of this programme, the EU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Pacific comes to a total of €119 (AUD $197) million. In addition to supporting the emergency response and strengthening health systems, these funds help cushion the economic and social impact of the crisis and protect jobs in the region.
The “Health Support in response to COVID-19 in the Pacific” will be implemented in line with the priorities of the joint management team led by the World Health Organisation, in cooperation with the World Food Programme and the Pacific Community (SPC). Approximately €2 million are earmarked for Timor-Leste.
*The 15 countries are: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.