ActionAid has issued a plea to Australia to step up for women globally as the COVID-19 crisis continues and escalates in some parts, particularly in India, and especially as the pandemic is disproportionately impacting women.
Responding the 2021 Federal Budget from Tuesday night, ActionAid has highlighted the declining aid budget, which is difficult to see in 2021 as developing countries are taking on the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and risk a lack of access to vaccines.
The Budget has delivered a 4.9% reduction in Australian aid from 2021-22 relative to the previous year, according to analysis by the Development Policy Centre, despite the international crisis. Aid is also set to fall every year to 2024-25, totaling a 12% drop from the current year.
Australia has also provided no new funding to support COVID-19 vaccine rollouts across developing countries, despite predictions that many such countries will not be able to access such vaccines until 2023.
ActionAid Executive Director, Michelle Higelin, has expressed dismay at the declining Morrison Government aid spend, noting how women and girls are impacted by the pandemic.
“Communities across South Asia are battling soaring daily infections and an alarming death rate and assistance is desperately needed for health services, protective equipment and oxygen,” she said.
While the Morrison Government has announced an additional $16.7 million for India, ActionAid believes this is just the first step, especially as the World Bank is estimating that 163 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by the end of this year.
“Women, girls and the most marginalised are being hardest hit by COVID-19. ActionAid is seeing a further surge in vulnerability in India as movement restrictions, cramped living conditions, job losses and increased violence are putting women and girls at risk, alongside the threat of infection.”
ActionAid has also urged the government to build on the work it’s done around the women’s economic statement, to additionally consider the impact of aid spending on women and girls internationally.
“Gender equality commitments in the aid budget remain at $1.3 billion, including a welcome commitment of $170 million over five years for Pacific Women Lead. However, at 30% of the total aid budget this is well below what is required to address the gender impacts of COVID-19 and to prevent undoing decades of progress,” said Higelin.
“ActionAid is deeply concerned that this budget neglects Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Middle East where serious threats to gender equality exist and the risks of COVID-19 remain considerable. Countries facing the most severe food crises globally are all in these regions, where millions are on the brink of starvation.”
Higelin also noted how aid spending is increasing worldwide, making Australia’s falling contributions particularly disheartening to see.
“It is disappointing to see Australia is sitting on the sidelines while other wealthy governments are stepping up.”
Pictured above: A COVID-19 Medical college hospital in Kolkata, photographed on 26 April 2021. A day after India had recorded over 2812 death COVID-related deaths. The daily death toll has since hit over 4000.