Australia's Queensland University receives US$12 million for COVID-19 vaccine research

The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia has announced it will receive up to an additional US$12 million (A$17 million) to accelerate vaccine development for COVID-19. The  Australian government will provide US$7 million (A$10 million) of this funding.

The University’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences is the only Australian center being supported by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a vaccine against COVID-19.

Press release - University of Queensland

Australia's World Public Health Nutrition Congress canceled

The World Public Health Nutrition Congress 2020,  planned to take place in Brisbane Australia from March 31- April 3, 2020, has been canceled due to COVID-19. The meeting is normally held every four years with the objective of improving nutrition globally, especially in vulnerable countries.

Conference site - WPHNCongress2020 

Australia Nutrition

Regional Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction postponed

The Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2020, planned for Brisbane, Australia from June 29- July 2, 2020, has been postponed due to COVID-19. Options for its rescheduling are currently being considered.  

Conference site - UNISDR


Australian Institute identifies COVID-19 immune response

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne has identified the body’s immune response to COVID-19. The results of the research showed four types of immune cells responding to the COVID- 19 infection, and suggests that individuals recover from the coronavirus in a similar way to other flu infections.

The Australian government and business donors including Jack Ma have provided funding for the Institute.

News article - BBC

ODA definition debate reopened by Australian bushfires

The provision of international assistance to Australia following the devastating bush fires in late 2019 and early 2020 has sparked the re-opening of debates around the definition of official development assistance (ODA). At present, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rules dictate that only funds provided to low and middle-income countries can be counted as ODA.

This debate started in 2017 when Government ministers from the United Kingdom suggested that the definition of ODA should be broadened. Their proposal was to allow development assistance committee (DAC) countries to channel funds from their development budgets to wealthier nations in exceptional circumstances, such as natural disasters. Other governments and think tanks voiced their opposition to counting flows to wealthier countries as ODA. At that time, the proposal failed to garner support from DAC members and so it was dropped.

News article - Devex


US calls on Australia to increase assistance to south-east Asia amid fears of China's regional influence

In a speech at The Australian Financial Review Business Summit, the United States' ambassador to Australia urged the government to extend its Pacific "step-up" to include south-east Asia. Ambassador Culvahouse suggested Australia's decision to cut ODA to south-east Asia is shortsighted. These urgings are linked to the US's concerns about China's expanding influence in the region. In his speech, Culvahouse explained that Australia "sits on the frontline of the great strategic competition of our time".

Other experts, including the head of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID),  Marc Purcell, have also levied criticisms against the Australian government for withdrawing development support from south-east Asia. Similarly, the Indonesian Vice-President Ma’ruf Amin voiced his concern about the cuts. He wrote to the Australian government’s development policy review to emphasize the importance of Australian assistance to his country, especially for helping to address poverty and stunting levels. 

News article - ABC News


New resource tracking donor funding for COVID-19

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a US-based non-profit organization focused on health, recently released a centralized compilation of information on donor funding for COVID-19. Their analysis is based on publicly available information and details all funding directed toward the global response to the virus. It excludes spending on domestic response efforts or economic stimulus.

Key findings include:

  • Governments, multilateral organizations, and private funders around the world have so far spent an estimated US$8.3 billion responding to the virus;
  • 91% of funds have come from donor governments, the World Bank, and other multilateral organizations; and
  • The World Bank is the largest donor so far (US$6.0 billion). The US is the second-largest donor (US$1.3 billion), followed by the Tencent/Tencent Charity Foundation (US$215 million), Alibaba (US$144 million), and the European Union (US$140 million).

KFF plans to update the tracker as this global health emergency continues to unfold.

In addition to KFF's work on donor funding for COVID-19, other efforts to provide data-driven information on the outbreak have begun to emerge. Our World in Data's COVID-19 article is a particularly useful resource. Their aim is to help readers make sense of early data on the coronavirus outbreak. The article will continue to be updated as the situation develops.

Report - KFF

Agricultural research among most effective components of Australia's development spending, expert argues

Development spending on agricultural research has been an effective — though often overlooked — component of Australia's development scheme. With the government's review of their international development policy currently underway, the Chair of the Crawford Fund for International Agricultural  Research and former Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Mark Anderson, spoke out about the importance of agricultural research in development. He encouraged the Australian government not to cut funding to the sector.

Agricultural research only takes up 2% of Australia’s development budget but according to Anderson, it offers enormous returns in terms of poverty reduction and economic growth in recipient countries. It also creates opportunities for Australia to engage in trade and soft diplomacy. In his comments, Anderson said that agriculture research is furthermore important because it ensures that Australia has the scientific knowledge necessary to respond to emerging biosecurity threats and trends.

News article - The Land

Australia Agriculture

Australian government urged to provide more funding for COVID-19 vaccine development

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, researchers are working to halt the outbreak; however, a vaccine is likely still more than 12 months away and A$3 billion (USD$2 billion) is needed to finance the further development of vaccines against the virus.

The chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and former head of Australia’s Health Department, Jane Holton, has called on the Australian government to provide more funding for vaccine research. CEPI is coordinating vaccine development across labs globally. Researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane are one of the groups being funded to develop a candidate vaccine.

News article - SBS

Infrastructure spending may not be most effective use of Australia's ODA in the Pacific

An op-ed published by the interpreter (the Lowy Institute), argues that Australia should reallocate some of its infrastructure budget to fund initiatives that address the region's public health crises. Since there are many funders engaged in the region that specialize in infrastructure grants, Australia could have a more substantial positive impact on Pacific communities if the government focused development efforts in "areas where it has a clear, unique value proposition", such as health.

Infrastructure has become an increasingly important focus of Australia's ODA to the Pacific in recent years. Comments made by the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke, suggest Australia's prioritization of infrastructure in the Pacific will likely continue following the government's development policy review, which is currently underway.

Op-ed - The Interpreter

Australia Global health