The fears of Australia’s development and aid organisations have been realised, with a massive $1 billion cut to Australian aid in 2015-16 revealed in today’s Federal Budget.
The cuts will make it harder to achieve Fred Hollows’ vision of a world in which no one is needlessly blind.
The Budget includes a further shrinking of the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP)–the primary source of government funding for cost-effective, practical projects to reduce poverty.
It also includes an alarming 70 per cent cut in Australian aid to sub-saharan Africa, and a 40 per cent cut in the level of overseas development assistance being invested in Pakistan, through the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Last year, the Federal Government announced a total of $11.3 billion in cuts to Australian aid over four years.
Aid and development NGOs have already been forced to slash programs providing food, shelter, education and medical care in developing countries, as well as programs targeting child protection, women’s safety and security, political participation and job creation.
The Fred Hollows Foundation has also been affected, including having to axe a program in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta that would have screened the eyes of up to 20,000 people and restored sight to up to 2,300 people.
The next round of cuts, revealed in today’s budget, will further undermine Australia’s role as an effective and compassionate leader, in our region and globally.
In the coming days, NGOs will find out how the overall cuts will affect each organisation.
The Fred Hollows Foundation CEO, Brian Doolan, said The Foundation now had to make tough decisions and work out how to cover the shortfall in its funding.
The cuts could mean up to thousands of patients miss out on eye operations and other treatments, children might not receive cataract surgery, and eye health staff may not be trained.
“These further cuts will place even more pressure on organisations like The Fred Hollows Foundation, that are helping people who have nowhere else to turn,” Mr Doolan said.
“These budget cuts will only hurt some of the most vulnerable and desperate people in developing countries.
“And Australian aid is not just about helping people living in extreme poverty–cutting aid erodes stability and security, including in our own region, and makes it harder to control the global spread of diseases such as Ebola.”
Ann-Marie Wilcock, The Fred Hollows Foundation, +61 475 691 227