Pacific Islands Forum and European Union JOINT PRESS RELEASE
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26/11/20 – Suva, Fiji – Today, the European Union has signed a new Financing Agreement with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to repurpose €22 (FJD $54, AUD $36) million in support of the Pacific region’s response to COVID-19 through the “Health Support in response to COVID-19 in the Pacific” programme. The programme will boost the readiness and ability of 15 countries* to effectively combat and protect themselves against the pandemic. It will pay special attention to those living in vulnerable situations.
While signing the agreement in the margins of the 5th Regional Steering Committee at PIFS, the European Union Ambassador to Fiji and the Pacific, HE Sujiro Seam said ‘‘The EU recognizes the leadership of Pacific Island Countries and their regional organisations in containing the COVID-19 pandemic. The low caseload in the region should not lead to complacency. The Team Europe Health Support in Response to COVID-19 will help Pacific Island Countries keep their guard up. It complements the existing EU support to strengthen health systems in the region.”.”
In her remarks, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said “This EU support has helped Pacific nations to address priority health, safety, and protective measures at both the regional and national level, and ensured the Pacific has not seen the massive loss of life experienced in other parts of the world. The funds have helped make the most of regional action through our Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19, ensuring supplies, test kits and protective gear for health personnel have reached all our nations.”
The programme will support the delivery of essential equipment, medication, and services, and enable the countries to better diagnose, treat and manage COVID-19 cases. Early detection of cases remains critical in the Pacific countries, which are highly vulnerable to importation of the disease. This support from the EU aims to ensure they have continuous access to test kits and can promptly identify cases of COVID-19.
Because the number of commercial cargo flights has reduced dramatically, the programme will also contribute to improving air transport services on specific international routes in the Pacific region and Timor-Leste. This will help keep them open for the movement of humanitarian personnel, technical experts, and for urgently needed supplies, such as personal protective equipment and other medical items.
The programme will complement an on-going EU programme that supports Pacific partners’ efforts to build strong, effective and resilient health systems. It will also strengthen surveillance and prevention of zoonotic diseases, and improve collaboration between different sectors, such as the environment, animal health and public health.
With the announcement of this programme, the EU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Pacific comes to a total of €119 (FJD $292, AUD $197) million. In addition to supporting the emergency response and strengthening health systems, these funds help cushion the economic and social impact of the crisis and protect jobs in the region.
The “Health Support in response to COVID-19 in the Pacific” will be implemented in line with the priorities of the joint management team led by the World Health Organisation, in cooperation with the World Food Programme and the Pacific Community (SPC). Approximately €2 million are earmarked for Timor-Leste.
The 15 countries are: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. (ENDS)