Pacific Islands face COVID-19 emergency: regional leaders must step up

In response to media reports and Opposition calls for the Australian government to assist Pacific nations with their response to the COVID-19 crisis, Amnesty International Australia Campaigner, Joel Clark, said:

“These countries require international emergency and development assistance to respond effectively to the pandemic in line with human rights law and standards. Pacific countries have a limited ability to provide adequate health care, and some are relying on testing facilities in New Zealand and Australia to confirm COVID-19 cases due to lack of their own technical equipment and experts able to carry out such testing in the region.

“Among other countries, the Australian Government is a key development partner in the region and must step up and cooperate with Pacific Island countries to protect the right to adequate health care. This pandemic could be catastrophic for our closest neighbours: a region that already has high levels of poverty and poor health care.

“This is a real threat to the right to adequate health care and the right to life for people living in the Pacific. Countries that have the capacity to assist must do so as a matter of urgency, and must ensure such resources are used consistent with human rights laws and standards.

“We understand the Australian Government is ‘reconfiguring’ its support for Pacific Nations, but we’re concerned this actually means cuts to vital programs like those to prevent violence against women across the region, as we know women are more likely to suffer from violence and discrimination in a crisis.

“This isn’t enough. Regional leaders must commit new funding to addressing the pandemic by providing essential health equipment, resourcing and services, and they must do it now.”