The Centre for Health Security is working with Pacific Island governments and regional organisations to strengthen capacities to prepare and respond to health security threats, including COVID-19.
The Centre for Health Security conducted a Scoping Mission to the Pacific in 2018, which provided recommendations to inform priorities and propose areas for investment. In March 2019, DFAT opened a call for proposals for activities through the Pacific Infectious Disease Prevention (PIDP) and ASEAN-Pacific Infectious Disease Detection and Response (APIDDaR) programs. In 2020, partners will commence activities to prepare and respond to major health security threats, including COVID-19. Australia provided funds to procure medical supplies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and provided support for testing across the Pacific. Australia also deployed technical advisers and provided funds to the World Health Organization's regional COVID-19 response plan for Pacific Island countries.
The following regional programs have been developed to build health security capacity in Pacific Island countries:
- Building Capacity for Evidence-Based Sustainable Vector Surveillance and Control in the Pacific, implemented by James Cook University.
- Deployments of health security technical experts to strengthen the work of health ministries, including a senior pathologist to support Samoa’s Ministry of Health, and short-term advisers for infection prevention and control, and epidemiology in Tuvalu and Kiribati. Australia also provided a short-term adviser to support preparedness for COVID-19 in Solomon Islands in February 2020.
- Enhancing the Management of Antimicrobial Resistance (EMAR), a joint DFAT-ACIAR One Health Project to support Fiji’s health and agricultural authorities implement the National Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan.
- Health systems research in the Tropical Partnerships to Enhance Surveillance and Response to Infectious Diseases project, to study patterns of infectious disease spread and strengthen health systems responses to communicable disease. This research is led by James Cook University.
- Health systems research through the Watershed Interventions for Systems Health (WISH) project, to develop and test real-time mobile tools to optimise water, sanitation and catchment management and training on outbreak response. This research is led by the University of Sydney.
- Mitigating the threat of Antimicrobial Resistance in Pacific Island Countries, implemented by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.
- Research trials on the introduction of the Wolbachia bacteria to mosquitoes to reduce risks from dengue and other arboviruses, through the World Mosquito Program (WMP).
- Funding for two specialist technical advisers to enhance the Pacific Community (SPC) Public Health Division’s support to Pacific Island countries in infection prevention and control and epidemiology training. The SPC will also be supported through a new grant to deliver Pacific Evidence Informed Policies and programs (Pac-EVIPP) program.
- Support for the online health data aggregation, analysis and visualisation platform, Tupaia. This tool combines data from multiple sources to improve the availability of medicines, map disease outbreaks, respond to disasters and strengthen service provision in the Indo-Pacific.
- Support for the World Health Organization’s regional office in Suva, including funding to prepare, respond and contain COVID-19 through technical advice to Pacific Island Countries and shipments of medical supplies.
- Support to expand immunisation in the Pacific through the Australian Regional Immunisation Alliance, led by the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance (NCIRS).
- Support to improve public health outbreak investigation and surveillance training, led by the University of Newcastle.
- Training in surveillance and outbreak investigation for veterinarians and the para-veterinary workforce, delivered by the University of Sydney and Charles Sturt University.
- Volunteer deployments with partner organisations in Fiji through the Health Security Corps, including roles with the World Health Organization, and health ministries across the Pacific.