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Overview of Australia's assistance for health

2013/14 Estimated Outcome: $765.3 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate: $784.7 million

Health is critical to improving livelihoods, enabling poor people to participate in the economy, and lifting living standards. We will invest in health—particularly health systems—so that women, men and children can achieve better health and live healthy and productive lives. We will also address trans-boundary issues such as emerging infectious diseases, which are significant threats to economic growth and health security.

Why we give aid

Many countries in the Indo-Pacific still have poor health indicators. 30 per cent of the global burden of maternal deaths and 40 per cent of child deaths occur in our region. In countries such as Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and Lao PDR, over 40 per cent of children under five are stunted. In the Pacific, it is estimated that 75 per cent of premature deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases. Poor sanitation leads to around 700,000 premature deaths globally each year, with more than 1.5 million children dying each year as a result of diarrhoeal disease—the second leading cause of deaths for children under five.

Drug resistance (specifically tuberculosis and malaria) poses a major risk to the health of the region. The devastating outbreak of Ebola in west Africa starkly highlights the importance of health systems which can manage emerging infectious diseases. In our region, outbreaks of SARS and avian influenza have had large costs on lives and economic activity.

Australia invests in health, particularly health systems, so that women, men and children can achieve better health and live healthy and productive lives. Australia’s investments in health are an investment in the economic prosperity, poverty reduction and financial protection of our region. Healthier adults are more able to work and children free of disease are better able to learn at school and gain the skills needed to break out of poverty. Investing in equitable and accessible health systems also prevents households falling into poverty by reducing catastrophic ‘out of pocket’ expenditure on health.

Australia can, and does, make a difference to the health of poor and vulnerable people, particularly in Asia and the Pacific. We are a uniquely placed donor, with geographic, trade, cultural and diplomatic ties across the region, and expertise in delivering programs which support sustainable, equitable health services.

How we give aid

Australia works with a broad range of partners to deliver aid, which boosts health outcomes, both globally and in our region. Our bilateral relationships support partner governments to deliver better health outcomes for their people, including the poor. Around 60 per cent of our health investment is delivered through country and regional programs.

Australia invests around 40 per cent of our health program in global initiatives and agencies—such as the World Health Organization, UNFPA and the Development Banks—to extend the reach of our aid program to more countries and people, and to leverage more investment in our region. We also invest in large scale global programs such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance.

Australia’s partnerships with the non-state sector, including the for-profit private sector, help support service delivery gaps. We also work with the private sector to develop innovative ways to improve health in our region and prevent the costs of healthcare exacerbating poverty. Australia also supports innovation by investing in research for health development to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of health investments, and to develop new tools and technologies to improve health.

Access to clean water and basic sanitation has a positive effect on many aspects of human development and is essential for a healthy population. Australia provides support to partner governments to improve hygiene and access to essential water supply and sanitation services in poor communities and in schools and health centres to directly benefit women and girls.

Read more about Australia’s support in water, sanitation and hygiene

Australian investments in health aim to:

  • be context-specific, targeted to meet country and regional need
  • support partner country efforts to address health issues
  • focus on sustained health improvements for all people, supported through monitoring & evaluation
  • support the development of sustainable health systems, essential for disease prevention and maintaining services and interventions at scale
  • help the poorest and most vulnerable people, particularly women and children
  • advance health public policy, for example on tobacco control and improving nutrition
  • promote regional cooperation to minimise disease transmission and adverse health impacts across borders
  • advance Australia’s strategic interests, foster innovation, and engage the private sector in delivering health outcomes.

Global health initiatives


DFAT will spend an estimated $784.7 million on health (including basic water supply, sanitation and hygiene) in 2014-15. DFAT’s priority health investments are in the Indo Pacific region, including countries such as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Around 40 per cent of health expenditure is invested in global initiatives and funds. For example Australia contributes to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an international financing partnership that supports large scale prevention, treatment and care programs and strengthens health systems in developing countries; and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance to support immunisation and health systems, and introduce new vaccines in developing countries.

To complement and support our country programs and global health funds investments, DFAT also supports global initiatives to improve development co-operation on priority health issues, and to increase the effectiveness of our health development program. Information on some of these key activities can be found below.

World Health Organization (WHO)

$20 million, 2013-2014 (Core contribution)

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a United Nations agency which sets global norms and standards in health. WHO is a major development partner for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We work together at global, regional and country levels to promote achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to strengthen health systems and to respond to health emergencies.

Australia provides WHO with annual core voluntary contributions in a flexible and predictable manner to support the WHO’s General Programme of Work. Australian Government funding contributes to:

  • strengthening health systems and simplifying the health aid architecture, especially in the Asia Pacific region
  • improving regional health indicators—particularly those relating to MDGs 4, 5 and 6
  • identifying and addressing emerging regional health issues.
Related links

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

$15.4 million, 2013-2014 (Core contribution)

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is a key player in supporting global achievement of the health and gender Millennium Development Goals. It assists countries in collecting, analysing and disseminating population data, and supports developing policies and programs on gender and maternal health, particularly in reproductive health, including family planning, safe motherhood, HIV/AIDS prevention, gender-based violence and promoting gender equality. UNFPA also provides technical guidance, training and support to its partners in the field.

Australia provides UNFPA with annual core voluntary contributions in a flexible and predictable manner to support the implementation of UNFPA’s Strategic Plan.

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The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

$7.2 million, 2013-2014 (Core and regional contribution)

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is the primary global multilateral agency responding to HIV/AIDS. Its mandate is to provide international coordination, leadership, strategic guidance and advocacy to mobilise global resources for the HIV response. UNAIDS is a key partner for the Australian aid program in progressing Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6 on HIV, and achieving the objectives of the UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying our Efforts to Eliminate HIV/AIDS, June 2011.

Australia provides UNAIDS with annual core funding, as well as funding to support the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific (RSTAP), which plays an important role in the HIV/AIDS response in our region by providing technical advice to countries, regional coordination, and support for civil society groups representing key affected populations (such as men who have sex with men, sex workers and people who inject drugs).

Related links

Regional HIV Capacity Building Program

$7 million, 2012-2014

The Regional HIV Capacity Building Program supports capacity development of civil society organisations who support the HIV/AIDS response with a focus on key affected populations in Asia and the Pacific. The program supports capacity building for: prevention, testing, treatment and care; research to inform effective HIV responses; HIV-affected communities to participate in regional and national responses to HIV; and collaboration between health care, research and community sectors.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
HIV in Asia—Transforming the agenda for 2012 and beyond 2012 Joint strategic assessment

Malaria and Emerging Health Threats

$20 million, 2013-2015

The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) was established at the 8th East Asia Summit (EAS) in October 2013 and is co-chaired by the Prime Ministers of Australia and Vietnam. APLMA, consisting of EAS and malaria-affected Pacific countries, aims to provide the high-level leadership necessary to reduce malaria cases and deaths by 75 per cent by 2015. Whilst preventable, malaria continues to exact a high social and economic toll in the Asia Pacific region.

The Asian Development Bank has established the Regional Malaria and Other Communicable Disease Threats Trust Fund which is one of the tools available to support regional cooperation to tackle malaria. The Australian Government has committed $18 million to the fund.

The fund will focus on supporting efforts to contain the spread of drug resistant strains of malaria, an enormous challenge in the Mekong sub-region. It will also provide financing for innovative programs to assist malaria-affected countries in the Asia Pacific to achieve their national malaria reduction targets. The trust fund will leverage financing from countries in the region, the private sector and other donors. It will complement other regional initiatives such as the Global Fund’s Regional Artemisinin Initiative and the World Health Organization’s Emergency Response to Artemisinin Resistance.

Related links

Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN)

$7.65 million, 2009-2015

The Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN) is a network of partner governments, donor organisations and public health, academic, and private sector institutions in Asia and the Pacific. The aim of APMEN is to develop and sustain a network of partner countries and institutions to work collaboratively to address the challenges of malaria elimination, with particular focus on the unique challenges for the region such as Plasmodium vivax. APMEN seeks to achieve this through activities relating to leadership, advocacy, capacity building, knowledge exchange, and building the evidence base.

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Health research for development

$30 million per year, beginning 2014-2015

On 18 June, the Minister for Foreign Affairs announced that the Australian aid program will invest $30 million per year in health and medical research. This package will support operational research through bilateral country programs, competitive grants to develop innovation solutions to key health problems in the Indo Pacific, and Product Development Partnerships for medical technologies. Priorities and implementation mechanisms for these programs are under consideration. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will provide further advice about these health and medical research initiatives in coming months.

Global Polio Eradication

$50 million, 2011-2012 to 2014-2015

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) commenced in 1988 with the aim to eradicate polio worldwide. It is a partnership between national governments, WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also a partner. Australian funding is used to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative Strategic Plan, including to: purchase and distribute polio vaccines; support polio surveillance and monitoring; fund supplementary immunisation campaigns and outbreak responses; and strengthen routine immunisation systems.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 2013 Strategic plan
Annual Report 2012 2012 Annual report

Health Resource Facility

$21.3 million, 2009-2015

The Health Resource Facility is DFAT’s primary mechanism for sourcing specialist expertise to support and improve its entire health portfolio. It provides a mix of services including:

  • prompt access to quality assured expertise from diverse Australian and international sources across a wide range of health sector topics
  • access to analysis/synthesis of research, knowledge and experience
  • access to professional development services of specific relevance to work in the health sector.

In 2009, the Australian aid program entered into a three year contract with Mott MacDonald Australia to provide the Health Resource Facility. Options have been exercised to extend that contract to 2015.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
AusAID Health Resource Facility Concept Document 2008 Concept document
Quality at Entry Report for the Health Resource Facility 2007 Quality at entry report
Health Resource Facility Establishment Phase Report 2009 Establishment phase report
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Last reviewed: 17 December, 2014