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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1951

Senator CROWLEY(4.18) —I spoke to the response by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence report the other day. I am happy to take the opportunity to continue my remarks, both in response to his report and to continue my remarks about an organisation called APHEDA-Australian People for Health Education and Development Abroad. I wanted to raise the subject of this organisation for two reasons: Firstly, because at the moment it is addressing assistance to Eritrea and secondly, because its aims and objectives are in line with the outline of Government aims and objectives mentioned by Mr Hayden in his comment on the Commonwealth report. The APHEDA organisation has been established to provide the people of Australia, through the trade union movement, with an organisation to assist directly developing countries on a people to people basis. It is fully supported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and it is the only trade union based non-government overseas aid organisation in Australia. It has been established particularly to represent the expression of concern that the Australian working people have for the health, welfare and development of people in the world community. One of the principal concerns of that organisation has been to look at the health of people in refugee situations in Third World countries.

I do not need to draw the Senate's attention to the awful poverty, both physical poverty and psychological poverty, of the people in refugee places around the world and people in Third World countries. Not all of them are in the same position. There are very different degrees of poverty and sometimes countries are affected by such things as disasters, earthquakes and famine. In fact, we can see the effect of famine biting deeply into parts of Africa at the moment and the enormous suffering of people there. In most of those places the water supply and sanitation are poor. Some of the basic things that we have in this country, such as the ordinary, every-day immunisation of the majority of the people against diseases, are not available to the majority of people in those developing countries.

Because this report refers to the Horn of Africa, I will comment on one of the factors that was causing great concern to this organisation, that is, the fact that infant deaths in Eritrea are as high as 300 for every 1,000 deaths and that , even more shockingly, one in every three women dies in childbirth. I do not know of a maternal mortality as high as that in any other place in the world. We are shocked in Australia at any death that can be prevented of any baby and maternal mortality in this country is very rare. In Eritrea one woman in three dies in childbirth. That largly is a consequence of poverty, malnutrition, disease and near starvation. All of these things are fairly preventable. I think the way some unevenness of distribution allows that to happen is a terrible indictment of our world.

One of the earliest projects of APHEDA was to provide assistance to teacher training for health education workers in Eritrea so that in fact the people will be helping themselves. It is a health worker training project. That person will be working with the people of Eritrea to try to increase the basic requirements for health in that area. The focus of the APHEDA organisation is on leaving people self-reliant in health care. It is also, importantly, on giving people human skills, if I can put it like that; that is, instead of building large and expensive hospitals at this stage of the country's development we will be looking at the barefoot doctor concept far more. So the emphasis will be on giving people basic skills, basic teacher training and health education training so that they can maximise the health of people in that area for a minimal dollar cost.

I am very pleased to be on the board of directors of the APHEDA organisation and working very closely witht the ACTU in this first trade union project with non-government organisations for assistance to people around the world-in particular at the moment through its project in Eritrea.

Question resolved in the affirmative.