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[Media Release - MFAI]

Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration

UN and the Cook Islands work together to address COVID-19 impacts on the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands is set to receive upwards of USD670,000 with the possibility of as much as USD2.5 million under the UN coordinated Pacific Humanitarian COVID-19 Response Plan (PHRP) launched last week. The PHRP seeks to address immediate needs in education, food security, livelihoods, water and sanitation, nutrition, protection and logistics, as well as emergency telecommunications over a timeframe of 8 months. The PHRP will complement the currently operative second phase of the Pacific health plan, led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), for procurement, training of medical personnel and risk communication. The Cook Islands received at least USD232,421 worth of medical supplies, consumable and technical assistance under Phase 1. Phase 2 of the health plan is expected to bring to the Pacific region’s health sector USD42 million.

“We’ve been proactively engaged with multiple UN agencies since January for assistance towards our national COVID-19 response efforts. In the early stages to bolster our health response capabilities and more recently, to support national measures to address social disruption and economic hardship, particularly for our most vulnerable” says Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann. “As a small island developing state (SIDS), this pandemic has exacerbated our economic and social vulnerabilities with our almost total reliance on the tourism sector now leaving our country in a precarious state. The announcement from the UN is welcomed but critical will be ensuring timely delivery of medical supplies and consumables and early disbursements of funding,” says Herrmann.

Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) continues to lead the Cook Islands engagement with multiple UN agencies, and efforts have needed to be elevated since early February through frequent interactions with the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Samoa, headed by Simona Marinescu, which has oversight of overall UN assistance to the Cook Islands.

“MFAI through its UN & Treaties Division will continue working closely with the UN Resident Coordinator’s office in Samoa to expedite streamlined coordinated response and facilitate where necessary the early drawdown of UN assistance to the Cook Islands under the PHRP. Those efforts also require co-ordination with the regional Pacific Humanitarian Pathway for COVID-19 (PHP-C) undertaking agreed by Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting in April and co-ordinated through the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva. We will continue to step up our engagement domestically to build a comprehensive needs assessment framework, work that has already commenced with government agencies, soon to be followed by consultation with the private sector and civil society. Information gathered will inform future discussions with bilateral and multilateral partners, including UN agencies” says UN, Treaties and Oceans Governance Director Josh Mitchell.

Priority needs have been identified in each of the areas under the PHRP with education and health, social protection, food security, and emergency telecommunications being crucial components that, together with the Cook Islands economic stimulus package, will form part of Government’s early response efforts to COVID-19 impacts.

“The whole of society approach taken by the Cook Islands since January, through the sustained work of multiple domestic agencies, our communities and invaluable support from international partners and particularly New Zealand, has thus far managed to keep COVID-19 out of the Cook Islands,” said Herrmann. “We cannot however be complacent, nor can we allocate all our resources and effort to COVID-19 responses only. As we continue to observe critical COVID-19 health response measures, we must at the same time elevate social and economic response efforts. Our economy and the livelihoods of our people, as is being experienced the world over, has been profoundly impacted and effects will be felt for years to come. More than ever, management of our external relations will require careful oversight to ensure we continue to secure necessary support and assistance from international partners for our evolving development agenda. Such assistance must be directed at initiatives which not only provide some immediate relief, but more significantly, strengthen our longer term resilience against the effects of pandemics like COVID-19, global economic shocks and climate change.”

The WHO Assembly will convene virtually next week with MFAI to support Te Marae Ora – Ministry of Health participation in the high level dialogue. The Assembly will bring together the 190 nations that form the membership of the WHO, including the Cook Islands. From MFAI’s perspective, it will be important for the Assembly to ensure that in addition to critical globally united efforts to combat COVID-19, the WHO and its membership not lose sight of other significant global health priorities – for the Cook Islands, in particular, combatting Non Communicable Diseases, resourcing Mental Health support and addressing shortages of health workers particularly in SIDS like the Cook Islands.

In addition to the WHO, among the multiple UN agencies the Cook Islands is a member of, MFAI will be elevating engagement with UNDP, the IMO, FAO, UNESCO, IOM and the ILO in the months ahead. Border closures and COVID-19 measures across the world have enhanced in some respects MFAIs ability to interact with key UN agencies, with meetings since February convening virtually and likely to continue in that manner for a number of months yet.

More detailed insight into UN coordinated Pacific Humanitarian COVID-19 Response Plan can be viewed at The PHRP can be viewed at and Queries regarding this media release can be directed to UN and Treaties Foreign Service Officer Siai Taylor at


  1. 1 March 2019 at MFAI Offices Rarotonga, Left to Right: Eriko Hibi, FAO Sub-regional Co-coordinator for the Pacific Islands; Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann; Office of the UN Resident Co-coordinator in Samoa Simona Marinescu; Siai Taylor, MFAI Foreign Service Officer UN, Treaties and Oceans; Josh Mitchell, MFAI Director UN, Treaties and Oceans Division;

  2. 2 February 2020 at MFAI Offices Rarotonga, Left to Right: Secretary Herrmann; Jorn Sorrenson, UNDP Resident Representative, Samoa; Klem Ryan, Deputy Head of the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator and Josh Mitchell, UN, Treaties and Oceans Director, MFAI; and

  3. 3 May 2019 at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva during the first meeting of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders with the Secretary General of the United Nations in the Pacific – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres with Prime Minister Henry Puna


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