University of Melbourne Laureate Professor Alan Lopez, Director of the Global Burden of Disease Group, has analysed the data from the recently released Lives Saved Scorecard.
He said the total spend from individual donors and governments has dramatically increased over time.
“Australians should be really proud of doing their duty as good global citizens,” Prof Lopez said.
“In just 15 years, Australia’s contributions have saved enough children to equal roughly the entire population of Hobart. That’s 10 young lives per 1000 Australians.
“Fifteen years ago, the contributions of Australians through our foreign aid programs saved just over 2,400 children’s lives. By 2014, the number of kids lives saved had grown to 40,875. That’s an amazing improvement in anyone’s view.
“SBS’s third series of Go Back to Where You Came From, which airs tonight, makes a very poignant point about why we should care about others who suffer in poverty around the world. But it’s important to acknowledge the contributions of our government and the thousands of Australians who already do.
The report card was produced by Prof Christopher Murray, at the University of Washington and Ray Chambers, from the United Nations, to reveal the true value of investing in foreign aid.
Analysis of the data by Prof Lopez and collaborators show 40,000 children’s lives have been saved every year since 2012, as a result of the Australian Government’s development assistance for health.
So for every $5,400 of Australian foreign aid, a child from one of the poorest countries is given the gift of life.
Professor Barbara McPake, Director, Nossal Institute for Global Health, helped to extract the Australian data from the report. She added that across the world, donors have actually become more philanthropic, which means Australia has some stiff competition to win the title of most generous nation.
“Increased spending by donors worldwide saved the lives of more than 1.5 million children in 2014, compared with 420,000 15 years ago,” Prof McPake said.
“When you adjust for population, Australia’s donor contributions are the same per capita than, those from the USA, France, Germany, and Japan, but Australia still lags behind other countries.
“We can and should save even more children by investing more. There is no reason why Australians should care less than the people of Norway, Canada or the UK.”
In a recent issue of The Lancet, Murray and Chambers propose a “Lives Saved Scorecard” to track donors’ and governments’ expenditures in low-and middle-income countries.
“Governments and their citizens want to know that money spent on foreign aid is achieving results,” Prof Lopez added.
“The scorecard is a great overall indicator of aid spending but it doesn’t tell us about the quality of the programs it supports or how to best invest each dollar.
“Its value is in demonstrating that aid does work. It allows tens of thousands of children the chance of a productive and satisfying life that they would otherwise not have.
“Most importantly, it gives the Australian public reassurance that their tax dollars spent on foreign aid really do improve health and wellbeing in poor countries, and then for the most vulnerable parts of the population, especially children.”
The Australian figures were analysed with assistance from Natalie Carvalho, Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.