In 2020, Vanuatu became one of just six countries to graduate from a ‘Least Developed Country’ since the classification was created by the United Nations over 65 years ago. However 39% of the population still live in relative poverty, surviving off less than $3.20 per day.
Vanuatu is deservedly proud of the structural, social and economic progress achieved over this time, however the country remains under constant threat from economic and environmental disasters. As an island nation, climate change means that Vanuatu is facing increasing extreme weather events, and deals with an average of 2-3 natural disasters a year. The economic pressure from such disasters, compounded by external shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, mean that Vanuatu’s fragile economic stability is in constant threat of being reversed.
As over 40% of Vanuatu’s national budget comes from International Aid, continued support from development partners, such as the MJF, is paramount in ensuring Vanuatu’s prosperity, and building national resilience to economic shocks. The MJF, working with its partners, will support the Vanuatuan Government in pursuing its national strategic priorities to build a stable, sustainable and prosperous Vanuatu.
Access to quality health and education is a basic human right and is the reason we do what we do.
While there has been significant improvements in recent years, life expectancy in Vanuatu is still 13 years less than the typical Australian enjoys. Children in Vanuatu are also 6 times more likely to die before they reach 5 years old (WHO, 2018). Vanuatu faces a triple burden from rising rates of non-communicable diseases, climate change threats, and many preventable diseases affecting children and mothers.
The staff at Vila Central Hospital do incredible work to try and address these needs, however they are required to do so with less than 2% of the funding per person than Australia, and with significant skills shortages. This results in an under-resourced hospital, which often lacks the critical equipment and consumables its needs to provide life-saving treatment.
Our goals are aligned with those of the Vanuatuan Governments’ National Sustainable Development Plan, Society Goal 3, in aiming for a ‘healthy population that enjoys a high quality of physical, mental and spiritual and social well-being’.
The four health policy objectives are:
- Ensure that the population of Vanuatu has equitable access to affordable, quality health care through the fair distribution of facilities that are suitably resourced and equipped.
- Reduce the incidence of communicable and noncommunicable diseases.
- Promote healthy lifestyle choices and health-seeking behaviour to improve population health and well-being.
- Build health sector management capacity and systems to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of quality services that are aligned with national directives.
Compulsory education in Vanuatu only applies to the first 6 years of primary schooling. A further four years of junior secondary and three years of senior secondary is available to students, however most conclude their education at the end of primary school and enter the workforce with very limited literacy and numeracy skills. Formal education is not available at all in some remote villages of Vanuatu.
Although basic literacy and numeracy skills are improving in Vanuatu (ranked 50th in the world), education is costly with school classrooms often overcrowded and under-resourced, presenting significant challenges for classroom teachers.
Primary enrolment is reasonably healthy at 96% but at secondary level, this figure falls to 43% of potential students enrolled. Tertiary enrolment is very low at 4.74%.
Improved literacy has an exponential effect on a society through improved access to the labour market, as well as increased self-esteem and confidence. Improved literacy gives the best possible chance of accessing higher education and enables greater career opportunities into the future.
Our goals are aligned with those of the Vanuatuan Governments’ National Sustainable Development Plan, Society Goal 2, in aiming for “an inclusive, equitable and quality education system with life-long learning for all”.
The four education policy objectives are:
- Ensure every child, regardless of gender, location, educational needs or circumstances has access to the education system.
- Build trust in the education system through improved performance management systems, teacher training, and the reliable delivery of quality services.
- Formalise early childhood education and life-long learning opportunities within the education system.
- Increase higher education opportunities, including technical and vocational training and skills.