Australia pledges $18 million in coronavirus aid

With hundreds of Samoans unemployed and various businesses struggling financially, the Australian Government has committed aid worth SAT $18.4 million (AUD $10.5 million) in response to the economic and health shocks caused by COVID-19.

The economic asistance was announced by the Samoan and Australian Governments on Friday. 

According to the statement, it stated that the two countries have supported each other to combat several challenges over recent months.

This included the Samoan measles epidemic and Australian bush fires, but  COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge. 

“Now more than ever is the time to work together to protect our families, our communities and our countries,” read the statement.

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegao, said that the Government of Samoa appreciated the cooperation from all its development partners.

He said that includes the Government of Australia, in their responses to requests to consider rescheduling and reprioritising existing aid programs in order to give focus to Samoa’s COVID-19 response.

“I am grateful for the flexibility provided to reprioritise development cooperation initiatives in order to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, particularly on the most vulnerable groups in our society,” Tuilaepa stated.

The Australian High Commissioner to Samoa, Sara Moriarty said that the Australian Government is committed to supporting the people and Government of Samoa by building on their long standing partnership, to ensure a healthy, prosperous and resilient Samoa and broader Pacific region.

“We are adapting the Australian aid program in Samoa to support Samoa’s preparedness and response to a possible COVID-19 outbreak—including strengthening broader health institutions and systems—and to mitigate the economic impacts of the global pandemic,” Ms. Moriarty said.

She added that the two Governments have been discussing the COVID-19 support package of AUD 10.5m.

“Which is in addition to our existing bilateral development program, can best be directed to support the Government in fighting this virus,” the High Commissioner stated. 

“Supporting vulnerable people, and advocating for gender equality and women’s empowerment, are priorities of the Australian aid program more broadly, and we will again work with the Government and civil society to ensure that support gets to those who need it most.

“A pandemic with no respect for borders cannot be tackled alone, and our continued cooperation will be critical for the health and safety of Samoans and Australians alike.”

Since January, the Australian Government has worked with the Pacific and Timor-Leste to prepare and respond to requests for assistance.

This includes working with regional partners to provide support for laboratories, public information campaigns, medical supplies, in-country diagnostic testing for COVID-19, and health expertise.

Australia’s response will build on the Pacific Step-up, which has strengthened our co-operation in helping to grow economies, build resilience, and enhance regional stability through our defense, policing and border security cooperation. 

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