Caritas Australia has applauded the Commonweath Budget announcement that Australia will increase economic support for COVID-19 response and recovery in the Pacific region.
This one-off increase of $304.7 million over the next two years in support to the Pacific and East Timor comes at a crucial moment, as the impacts of COVID-19 are likely to push an additional 533 million people into poverty this year, marking the first increase in global poverty rates in more than 20 years.
“We have seen the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on marginalised communities that we work with, and welcome this commitment as an important step to ensure that our vulnerable neighbours are supported through this crisis,” Caritas chief executive Kirsty Robertson said.
However, Caritas Australia is deeply concerned that the Government has cut aid to other countries in South and West Asia, Africa and the Middle East – countries where the current circumstances are dire.
“This means that vulnerable communities in countries like Afghanistan and Bangladesh may not receive the support they need to respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” Ms Robertson said.
“COVID-19 has changed the world for everyone and our global neighbours are suffering – economically and socially – on top of already great challenges
Ms Robertson said Pope Francis, in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti released last weekend, called for the international community to no longer think “in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those’ but only ‘us’”.
“The additional support for some of Australia’s most vulnerable neighbours is an important step towards this goal,” said Ms Robertson. “But it is vital that these efforts are sustained, as long-term support is needed for the slow recovery from COVID-19.”