Rapid and massive increase in aid needed to save millions of lives amid COVID-19 crisis

Campaigns and Advocacy, Foreign aid, Media Releases, News article written on the 06 May 2020

To live up to the once-in-a-century coronavirus crisis, save lives and build a better global future, Oxfam is calling on wealthy nations to massively and urgently raise new international aid funds.

A new briefing prepared by Oxfam, “Whatever it takes. Coronavirus”, calls for wealthy nations – including Australia – to make available the resources needed by developing nations to stop the pandemic, avert humanitarian disaster and prevent economic collapse.

Oxfam Australia Head of Political Engagement Emma Bull said research shared by the organisation early last month found the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic could push half a billion more people – or 8 per cent of the global population – into poverty unless urgent action was taken to support developing countries. Early estimates also indicated as many as 40 million people could die during the crisis unless there were preventative measures.

“A huge increase in international aid, from wealthy donors such as Australia, is needed now to help the poorest countries face the health, social and economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis,” Ms Bull said.

“Governments, as well as international organisations and financial institutions, should take four actions to pay for this: immediate debt cancellation, creating new international reserves by the International Monetary Fund, adopting emergency progressive taxes and a massive injection of aid funds.”

“The UN has called for US$500bn in aid to tackle the pandemic and Oxfam estimates wealthy countries’ fair share of this would be about $300 billion.

“Australia’s fair share contribution to this global crisis should amount to $84 million. This is only a tiny percentage of the billions of dollars of welcome domestic economic stimulus the Government has so far announced.

“We know there are thousands of Australians struggling through this crisis and its economic and social upheaval. Many are reliant on the Australian Government supports put in place to address this crisis – responses we commend. But as a wealthy country, we can afford to both look after our own people and support people in need overseas.”

The latest OECD statistics show that while global aid flows have increased slightly and many wealthy countries gave more aid in 2019 – including New Zealand, up 3.4 percent, the United Kingdom, up 2.2 percent, and Canada, up 0.5 percent – Australia’s aid has continued to be cut to historic lows, with a 2.5 percent drop in 2019.

“There is simply not enough money in Australia’s drastically decreased budget to adequately respond to the global health, social and economic impacts of this crisis,” Ms Bull said.

“Australia’s aid budget must be immediately boosted with additional global funding. This money will not only save lives now, but is necessary to prevent millions more people falling into poverty over the coming years.

“This crisis is the time for bold and visionary choices for our collective future. As the coronavirus crisis threatens to set back the fight against poverty by decades, we must now act and build a better future.”

For media interviews, or for more information, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0450 668 350 or dylanq@oxfam.org.au