All Pacific Island countries are vulnerable to existing and emerging infectious diseases as well as natural hazards such as extreme weather events, which are expected to increase in severity and frequency due to climate change. Improved air travel routes, increasing numbers of workers and visitors from Asia, and more Pacific students and workers travelling outside the region mean that Pacific countries are exposed to the risk of importation of emerging infectious diseases. Small, highly dispersed populations, geographic isolation and limited human and financial resources make delivering health care and responding to disease outbreaks difficult and expensive in the Pacific. Australia has long been active in health system strengthening in the Pacific, and has focussed on communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. In 2017, Pacific Health Ministers endorsed the Pacific Health Security Coordination Plan (PAHSEC), which provides a mechanism for countries and partners to work together to prioritise, implement and fund sustainable core capacity strengthening for countries’ health systems, in line with the International Health Regulations (IHRs). The Centre for Health Security works closely with Pacific Island country governments, through bilateral health programs managed by High Commissions across the region. Existing and new investments will address gaps identified by the scoping missions, commissioned by the Centre for Health Security in 2018. Key partners for our work in the Pacific include the World Health Organization, The Pacific Community, the University of Sydney and Tupaia.
In March 2019, DFAT opened a call for proposals under the Health Security Initiative for country-specific and multi-country activities to strengthen infectious disease detection, prevention and response in the Indo-Pacific region. Two streams of funding have been established:
- The Pacific Infectious Disease Prevention (PIDP) program - $25 million over 2019-2022.
- The ASEAN-Pacific Infectious Disease Detection and Response (APIDDaR) program - $28 million over 2019-2022.
As at November 2019, the Centre for Health Security is undertaking a collaborative design process with a group of preferred partner organisations, who were selected on the basis of demonstrated organisational capacity and activity concepts.