AUSTRALIA’s foremost grassroots anti-poverty organisation, RESULTS International (Australia), welcomes the Government’s aspirations to fight poverty more effectively in our region.

However, they warn that a focus on regional economic growth cannot come at the expense of investment in health.

In her address to the National Press Club yesterday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop highlighted the Government’s goals to enhance effectiveness, strategic use of the private sector, and focus on women and girls in Australia’s aid program.

“We welcome the Government’s aspirations to fight poverty in our region and enhance effectiveness,” CEO of RESULTS International (Australia),” Ms Maree Nutt, said.

“However as long as preventable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria ravage the working populations of our nearest neighbours, these efforts may be in vain. Building strong economies needs to be matched with investment in the health and wellbeing of the people who drive them.”

Ms Nutt highlighted RESULTS recent report on Cambodia, where despite ten year of solid economic growth, 40% of children are stunted due to malnutrition. This stunting causes physical and cognitive impairments that impact their ability to learn in school, and earn later in jobs.

“Ms Bishop rightly states that aid is not a panacea and whilst economic growth is important, healthy economies also rely on healthy people,” she said.

The announcement that $30 million per year will be dedicated to medical research was also welcomed by RESULTS.

“Investment in medical research is essential to develop the better diagnostics, treatments and vaccines that can tackle devastating diseases on our doorstep such as tuberculosis,” Ms Nutt added.

Amongst the announcements made by Ms Bishop was a focus on delivering aid via public-private partnerships, a move cautiously welcomed by RESULTS. Whilst details remain scant, advocates hope that this will mean generous ongoing support for the Global Fund, Global Partnership for Education and GAVI Alliance which are both founded on effective engagement with the private sector.

RESULTS also urges the Government to re-examine its commitment to overall aid volume so that its initiatives are not hamstrung by a limited budget.

“The positive impact of smart aid investments will only be amplified by bold and long term commitments to increase aid levels to 0.5% of our Gross National Income. In the end, this will benefit us all,” Ms Nutt said.