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Australia improves the health of the world's poor

I am pleased to announce Australia's contribution of over $11 million to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international health and population agencies to further their work in fighting disease and illness in developing countries.

This support is additional to the $120 million to be provided in 1997/98 through bilateral and other non-government organisations for health programs in developing countries.

Australia's international assistance will focus on the health of women and children, increasing access to essential drugs and vaccines and the control of infectious and parasitic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

WHO reports that about one quarter of the estimated 52 million worldwide deaths in 1996 were caused by respiratory disease, tuberculosis, diarrhoea, malaria and HIV/AIDS. Many were women and children in the world's poorest countries.

The goal of improving the health of the world's poor faces significant challenges, nonetheless cooperation between Australia and the world's leading development agencies, including WHO, has led to major achievements.

These include the role of mass immunisation campaigns in the imminent eradication of polio in the South Asia and Pacific regions. With the help of the Australian Government routine immunisation of infants in these region is now over 90 per cent.

WHO's Western Pacific Regional Office, of which Australia is a member State, is holding its Annual Committee Meeting in Sydney this week. Over 100 delegates from 27 regional countries are attending the Meeting opened by the Prime Minister on Monday.

Media contacts:

David Alexander, Mr Thomson's Office, 02 6277 4665; 0412 146 181

Mark Giffard, AusAID, 02 6206 4966