Caritas Australia says Foreign Aid is Money Well Spent

Mercy Works Partners in PNG

Media Release, 8 May, 2013

CARITAS Australia, the international aid and development organisation of the Catholic Church, has backed a letter from Australia’s business leaders, calling for the Prime Minister and Opposition leader to strengthen their commitment to international aid.

On the eve of the Prime Minister’s planned visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG), Caritas CEO Jack de Groot said foreign aid saves lives and makes a huge difference, particularly in the Pacific region.

PNG is one of the largest recipients of Australian foreign aid money, receiving over $490 million in the 2012/13 budget.

“Countries in the Pacific are our nearest neighbours and we share a history and partnerships. Supporting countries such as PNG with foreign aid is not only the right thing to do, it’s in our best interests as a nation,” Mr de Groot said.

“PNG is an emerging economy and an important player within the Pacific region, but many challenges remain such as poverty and unemployment, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, high child and maternal mortality rates, law and order issues and low rates of children accessing education.”

Caritas Australia runs programs in education, health, vocational training and HIV/AIDS in PNG, as well as dozens of programs across the Pacific. Caritas Australia works in partnership with local communities in 35 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, Indigenous Australia and the Pacific.

“In PNG this money is saving lives and creating opportunities for many of the poorest of the poor,” Mr de Groot said.

“The vast majority of people in PNG live in remote and rural areas and in these places the Catholic Church can provide more than two thirds of all health services.

“PNG also has the highest incidence of HIV in the Pacific region. It’s estimated to affect just under 1 percent of the population, that’s approximately 54,000 people.

“Our programs in PNG, supported through foreign aid, reflect a proactive approach to tackling the spread of HIV/AIDS by addressing the issue of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and these programs are saving lives and contributing to a better standard of living for many.”

Mr de Groot urged political leaders not to turn their backs on the poorest of the poor by cutting aid in the upcoming budget. He welcomed the recent OECD report which gave Australia’s five billion dollar aid program the tick of approval.

“Our aid money is money well spent. We want to make sure the government and opposition stick to their commitments to foreign aid, so that we can continue to support and empower the world’s poorest to be the architects of their own development,” Mr de Groot said.

More information – What Australian aid money has achieved in PNG (source: AusAID)

• Provided 10,494 adults and children with lifesaving HIV treatment, including to 28 per cent of HIV positive mothers.
• Funded the abolition of school fees for first three grades of basic education in 2010 and 2011, enabling more than 535,000 children to get free education.
• Helped vaccinate more than 170-thousand children against measles and more than 72,000 people to find out their HIV status.
• Supported increased basic education (grade 8) completion rates, with an increase from 41.1 per cent in 2007 to 57.5 per cent in 2010.
• Supported an additional 29,681 children enrolled in basic education in 2011, compared to 2010.
• By 2011 trained and employed 700 female village court magistrates by 2011, up from 10 in 2004.
• Gave 1,500 young people ‘at risk’ access to community service in return for training or work placements in 2010.

Jack de Groot is available for interviews.
Media contact: Nicole Clements – 0408 869 833 or Nicolec@caritas.org.au