By Matt Anderson, Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands
Take a look at a map of Solomon Islands and you will get a glimpse of how hard it is to provide health services to more than half a million people scattered across 100 of the 990 inhabited islands that make up the country.
From the air, the challenge looks even more confronting as the archipelago of islands stretch as far as the eye can see. Some of the islands are big, others small, with banana boats the only way to move around.
Earlier this month, I flew over many of these islands on my way to Isabel Province. I was joined by Solomon Islands Deputy Prime Minister, Manasseh Maelanga and Health Minister Charles Sigoto to celebrate the community’s efforts to eliminate malaria in the
School children during the community parade, which was part of celebrations to mark a successful campaign to eliminate malaria in the Isabel province. Photo: Lou Anderson/AusAID
By Dr Stephen Kidd, Senior Social Policy Specialist, Development Pathways
In recent years, there has been an increase in AusAID’s commitment to helping countries deliver social protection to vulnerable members of their society. As a member of AusAID’s Social Protection Expert Panel, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a range of AusAID staff as they grapple with the challenge of incorporating a new policy
area into their programs and activities.
Villagers in a poor community in Oudomxay Province, Laos. Photo: Dr Stephen Kidd
I’ve worked on social protection since 2004 and it’s interesting to see how the nature of the debate has changed over the years. When I started, the focus was on trying to convince the international community and the governments of developing countries about the benefits of providing vulnerable people and families with access to regular cash transfers. It does seem a strange debate to have given that in developed countries there is ample evidence of the benefits of establishing a social security safety net. In Australia, for example, child poverty rates would more than double from 11.8 to 26.6 per cent in the absence of social protection. Indeed, debates on social protection in developed countries are not about whether it is necessary, as most recognise that it is, but rather on how it is designed.
By Barbara Ratusznik, Public Diplomacy Officer, Pacific Division, AusAID
There is no doubting the diversity of the Pacific region. Environments, languages, cultures, challenges and opportunities all vary hugely from country to country. In the same stretch of ocean, you have Papua New Guinea with a population of 6.9 million people using over 850 languages, and Tokelau which has a total land area of just 12km² and a population of only 1,151.
A community member in Vanuatu looking after a turtle. Photo: Wan Smolbag
This diversity extends below the surface into the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific islands lie in an area of ocean covering one-seventh of the globe’s surface, boasting one of the most dynamic marine ecosystems in the world. Six out of the seven different types of sea turtle on the planet can be found here. But numbers of these grandfathers of the sea have been rapidly declining for some time. Every one of the species is now endangered.
By Rosemary McKay, Director, Disability Policy Section, AusAID
Rosemary will join a panel of experts at the Canberra One Just World Forum (free
to attend) on the topic of ‘Overcoming Barriers—Living with a Disability in the Developing World’ on 22 May 2012, 6pm at Old Parliament House.
While I don’t have a disability and I don’t live in a developing country, I do have some experience of disability. My nine-year-old son has an intellectual disability and autism. For my son, and my family, living with a disability is challenging. But, here in Australia, the rights of people with disability are in legislation. My son can go to school
with his sister, which he loves to do; medicine for his epilepsy is subsidised; and we can access a range of support to assist him and our family. My husband and I are both able to work.
Members of the Disability-Inclusive Development Reference Group with AusAID Director General, Peter Baxter, in Canberra. Photo: AusAID
In many developing countries, the outlook for people with disabilities and their families is much bleaker. If I’d had my son in a developing country, chances are that I would be a full-time carer, and my son would most likely not be able to go to school. The health care costs associated with his condition and my family’s reduced income would steadily make us poorer, and I might feel too much shame to socialise with friends or take my son out into the community. I might find this situation so hard to cope with that I might even resort to locking my son up at times so that I could get basic chores done.
By James Batley, Deputy Director General Country Programs, AusAID
I went back to Dili last July for the first time in nearly ten years. It was great to return to a place that had given me some of the most intense and memorable experiences of my professional life, to revisit many of Dili’s landmarks, and to catch up with many old
friends. I spent much of my time reminiscing over the highs and lows of my three years in Dili which started in June 1999: the long lines of expectant voters on the day of the ballot on East Timor’s future on 30 August 1999; the violence that erupted after the announcement of the result; the rows of burnt-out and blackened shops and buildings that remained; the arrival of international troops led by Australia, and the beginnings of the UN administration; the emergence of East Timor’s political leaders…
Yet for all those vivid memories, the Dili I saw last July was not the city I left in 2002. At one level, the face of Dili has changed, with hundreds of new buildings, large and small, in all parts of the city. The traffic on the streets, too, has noticeably intensified. Dili certainly gives visitors a sense of busyness and of energy.
Australia is helping to improve women and children’s health by supporting mobile health clinics to travel to remote villages. Photo: Joao Vas / AusAID
The reason I travelled to Dili last year was to attend the annual meeting between East Timor’s Government and its development partners. It was this meeting that really brought home to me the deeper changes that have taken place in East Timor over the past ten years. During the UNTAET period, the international community essentially set the development agenda. Mechanisms were certainly put in place to consult Timorese leaders about their own priorities, and much energy was put into understanding the aspirations of the Timorese people themselves. Even so, at the major donor meetings I’m sure that many Timorese leaders felt like spectators, rather than active participants, let alone in the driver’s seat.