Australia helps keep Tonga healthy

Media release

17 May 2011

The Australian Government is providing an additional $1 million in support to frontline health and education workers in Tonga.

Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Mr Richard Marles said Tonga is undertaking crucial financial management reforms and these funds will ensure health and education service improvements continue.

“The Tongan Government’s revenues have been severely constrained since the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 and Tonga continues to make tough decisions to ensure its financial stability,” Mr Marles said

“The timely release of these funds will ensure the on-going payment of salaries for health and education workers such as primary and secondary teachers and doctors and nurses.

Mr Marles announced the funding during a ceremony with Tonga’s Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano where they signed a revised Memorandum of Understanding between the two Governments on Development Cooperation.

“This support acknowledges the importance of improving access to quality education and health services for all Tongans and is a key focus of the Australia-Tonga Partnership for Development. Around 40 per cent of Australia’s $19 million bilateral aid program to Tonga in 2011-12 is directed to these sectors.

“Tonga is to be congratulated for the excellent progress it has made in meeting agreed public financial management reforms, including strengthened public sector procurement practices and improved efficiency and timeliness of government payments.”

While in Tonga, Mr Marles also attended a clinic at Vaiola Hospital and met patients having follow-up treatment and screening for heart conditions using echo-cardiology equipment provided with Australian assistance.

The echo-cardiology (ECHO) screening service, which detects if children are suffering from the effects of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD), has been led by the Tonga Ministry of Health since 2008. Australia has supported this program since 2009.

Australian funds provided through AusAID’s Tonga Health Systems Support Program in 2010 have enabled the Ministry of Health to purchase its own portable ECHO screening machine.

Since 2008, over 11,000 primary school children have been screened, allowing early identification of 611 cases of RHD and 88 cases of congenital heart disease and enabling preventative treatment to mitigate more serious heart disease and major heart surgery.

Media enquiries

  • Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4330
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555
  • AusAID Media: 0417 680 590