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Development assistance in the Pacific

Pacific regional – healthy communities

Health is a dimension of "human security, including humanitarian assistance, to protect the rights, health and prosperity of Pacific people"

Boe Declaration on Regional Security, 49th Pacific Islands Forum, Yaren, Nauru, 2018



This page gives an overview of Australia’s work in the health sector, under Pillar 1 (Health Security) of Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response. It also outlines key related initiatives and summaries of programming and related documents.

Our Pacific neighbours are particularly vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response notes that our shared health security depends on controlling COVID-19 transmission rates in our region, and that economic recovery will depend on borders reopening, global and regional trade resuming, and travel and tourism returning.

The Australian Government is committed to supporting access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for the Pacific, as part of a shared recovery for our region from the pandemic. In February 2021, Prime Minister Morrison announced that Australia has committed $200 million to help deliver the roll-out of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to protect our Pacific neighbours. This is in addition to $80 million to the Gavi COVAX Facility’s Advance Market Commitment (AMC), to provide COVID-19 vaccines to the highest-risk groups in eligible countries, including in the Pacific.

Other major health challenges in the Pacific include the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that health budgets and systems cannot accommodate, persistent health security threats including climate-exacerbated disasters, significant unmet need for family planning and rising rates of teenage pregnancy. The Pacific region struggles to achieve the levels of health service delivery required for Universal Health Coverage

The Pacific Regional COVID-19 Development Response Plan notes that health challenges – like high chronic disease prevalence, poor access to clean water and sanitation, high numbers of persons per household and fragile primary health systems – may also increase the likelihood of COVID-19 related morbidity and mortality in the Pacific.  Maintaining a focus on strengthening health systems and universal health coverage, in addition to the immediate pandemic response, is essential for regional health security.

Australia will support equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in the Pacific through multilateral and regional initiatives to finance, assess, deliver and monitor COVID-19 vaccines.

Related links

More about Australian support for COVID-19 vaccine access in the Pacific: Regional Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative | Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security

Australia's Pacific Step-up responds to the priorities of Pacific countries, which include securing the health of the region. Investment in health and health systems in the Pacific is critical to economic development, labour mobility and health security – all priorities of Australia's engagement in the region.

Through the aid program health portfolio Australia invests in health – at the global, regional and bilateral levels.

In the Pacific, Australia works through partnerships with regional and international organisations, Pacific governments, Australian and international to support Pacific island Countries and Territories to improve health outcomes for their people. We work with our partners to deliver sustainable health systems strengthening programs, complemented by regional investments in family planning, health financing and workforce development.

"Recognising the centrality of the health of Pacific Peoples in the Leaders' Vision for the Blue Pacific, the current state of crisis confronting the health of Pacific peoples, and the importance of ensuring adequate resources and a whole-of-government approach in the health sector, Leaders agreed that health remain on the agenda of future Pacific Islands Forums."

Forum Communique, 50th Pacific Islands Forum, Funafuti, Tuvalu, August 2019

Healthy islands

The Healthy Islands vision was adopted by the Pacific Health Ministers at Yanuca Island in Fiji in 1995, and reaffirmed in 2015. Progress towards the Vision of the Healthy Islands in the Pacific is monitored by Pacific Health Ministers biennially.

Healthy Islands [PDF] are places where: children are nurtured in body and mind; environments invite learning and leisure; people work and age with dignity; ecological balance is a source of pride; and the ocean which sustains us is protected.

The objectives of DFAT's Pacific Regional Health Program are linked to the Healthy Islands vision.

Cover page of Healthy Islands publication

Regional health governance and action: Pacific Health Ministers and Pacific Heads of Health

Colin Tukuitonga delivers opening remarks at the 13th Pacific Health Ministers Meeting in French Polynesia, 2019
SPC Director-General, Colin Tukuitonga, delivers opening remarks at the 13th Pacific Health Ministers Meeting in French Polynesia, 2019. Photo: SPC

Regional governance, accountability and coordination arrangements support Pacific Island Countries and Territories to achieve their collective and individual health targets. Heads of Pacific health departments meet annually and report to Pacific Health Ministers [PDF]. These forums are convened by the Pacific Community (SPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), with Australian support.

Read SPC's opening remarks at the 13th Pacific Health Ministers Meeting, 2019.

Pacific Health Ministers
Pacific Health Ministers meeting in French Polynesia, 2019. Photo: SPC

Pacific Regional Health Program

Our partnerships are central to achieving the Pacific Regional Health Program's aims of:

  • Strengthening regional health governance and policy; and
  • Delivering health services and training that cannot be provided in individual countries due to limited capacities, or where economies of scale are achievable from regional or multi-country approaches.

The Pacific Community (SPC) Public Health Division (PHD)

SPC is the leading technical and scientific organisation in the Pacific. SPC's Public Health Division (PHD) is supporting Pacific island countries and territories to improve disease surveillance and response; prevent and control non-communicable diseases (NCDs); and improve clinical services across the region. PHD also works to strengthen regional health governance and policy by convening key regional meetings.

$10 million, 2017-2020

Pacific Community, Communaute du Pacifique

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) – Pacific Island Program (PIP)

RACS supports volunteer Visiting Medical Teams (VMTs) to deliver specialist care across the Pacific; and coordinates with other Australian medical colleges to deliver these essential services. In 2018-19, RACS teams worked in eight Pacific countries and conducted, on average, more than five clinical consultations and at least one operation daily, which averted 3443 disability-adjusted life years from 340 patients across six surgical specialties. RACS also works with senior clinicians to improve the service quality and contributes to courses at the Fiji National University (FNU).

$7.5 million, 2016-2021

More about the Pacific Island Program (PIP)

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons

Fiji National University (FNU) College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (CMNHS)

FNU CMNHS is working to address the diverse health workforce training needs across the Pacific. CMNHS partners with Pacific Ministries of Health to ensure its courses are relevant to the changing disease burdens and health workforce needs across the region.

$0.6 million, 2018-2020

More about FNU's College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (CMNHS)

Fiji National University

International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)

IPPF works to unite partnerships with governments, faith-based and civil society organisations to improve access to sexual and reproductive health services in nine Pacific countries; especially in hard to reach locations and for hard to reach populations.

$4 million, 2019-2022

Ten people wearing uniforms
IPPF-DFAT Pacific launch 2018. Director General Dr Alvaro Bermajo and Member Association representatives. Photo: IPPF, Fiji

UN Joint Program for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH)

This program, implemented by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and World Health Organization (WHO) in Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, aims to improve the health of women and children through better government policies, and stronger systems for planning, budgeting and monitoring.

$9 million, 2015-2019

More about the state of the Pacific's RMNCAH workforce [PDF]

Woman in a hospital room with a baby's cot

World Bank Pacific Facility 4 Trust Fund (PF4) – Pacific health analytical and advisory services

The Australian Aid program is supporting Pacific countries to meet the international Sustainable Development Goal for Universal Health Coverage. We are working with the World Bank to help health ministries in Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu to strengthen their planning and budget implementation and to explore options for improving efficiency and equity of resource allocation in the health sector.

$5 million, 2018-2022

The World Bank

Pacific Medicines Testing Program – Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

Improving the quality and safety of medicines by helping 12 Pacific countries access Australia's world-class medicines testing facilities.

$1 million, 2017-2021

More about: The Pacific Medicines Testing Program

Pharmacist and shelf of medicines
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