Canberra, May 20 (IANS) The Australian government has announced "quick financial support" for 10 Pacific countries hit by Cyclone Harold and the coronavirus pandemic.
Cyclone Harold swept through the Pacific in April, causing widespread damage that exacerbated the economic impacts of COVID-19.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) committed 100 million Australian dollars (65.4 million US dollars) to nations struggling with the basic costs of running their countries, Xinhua news agency reported.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) will receive the most assistance at 20.5 million Australian dollars (13.4 million US dollars), followed by the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu at 13 million Australian dollars (8.5 million US dollars) each.
"To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our region, Australia has been working in partnership with Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste to provide quick financial support, drawing on our existing aid program," a DFAT spokesperson said.
"Australia is providing separate support packages for Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Timor-Leste.
"This immediate funding will provide respite."
The government in November 2019 provided PNG with a 440 million Australian dollars (287.7 million US dollars) short-term loan, repayments on which have been postponed amid the pandemic.
Marise Payne, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, told the parliament earlier in May that Australia's Pacific neighbors had kept the spread of COVID-19 "to a very low rate" on account of "very swift action."
However, she said Cyclone Harold "compounded the impact of COVID-19 in the Solomon Islands, in Tonga, in Vanuatu and in Fiji", saying it prompted a "pivot" in foreign aid priorities.