Australia’s aid cuts threaten immunisation programmes in Asia

Budget cuts and changes to Australia's official aid programme to Asia threatens to undermine child vaccination programmes in the region, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reports a senior children's health advocate as saying.

Helen Evans, deputy chief executive of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), said the recent Australian government decisions to restructure the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) raises fears over future support for programmes in the region.

"Australia has had for a long time a very strong investment in the region and AusAID has been a very strong supporter of the development of health services," Evans said.

"I'm certainly aware of the fact that the new Prime Minister (Tony Abbott) has made an announcement in terms of reducing AusAID's budget and we're waiting to see the impact of that," she said.

AusAID has played a key role in the GAVI Alliance initiatives in Indonesia under a pentavalent vaccination programme to protect children against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis and influenza.

The GAVI Alliance partners developing countries and donor governments such as Australia, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Children's Fund, World Bank, the vaccine industry, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The GAVI Alliance programmes have supported the immunisation of about 370 million children in developing countries since its inception in 2000 amid signs of flagging support for vaccination programmes, and have helped prevent more than 5.5 million deaths from diseases ranging from hepatitis B to polio.

In Myanmar, AusAID had earlier this year committed more than $77 million (RM250 million) in 2013-14 and assistance had been set to grow to more than $94 million (RM300 million) a year by 2015-16. In Laos this week, Evans oversaw the launch of a new GAVI Alliance programme to vaccinate girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV) to curb rising rates of cervical cancer in the country. - Bernama, October 5, 2013.


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