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G8 maternal health spending fails women and girls

A pledge to put an extra $5bn towards improving the health of women and children over the next five years is a step forward, but stops well short of the support the developing world needs, say aid groups. The weekend’s G8 talks between world leaders made maternal and child health its major focus for this year. Announcing the Canadian government's maternal and newborn health initiative on Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it was a "historic commitment," but he noted that donor countries were "cautious" in what they offered.

At the end of the G8 talks, member nations said their joint pledge could help save the lives of 1.3 million young children and 64,000 women, according to estimates from the World Health Organization and World Bank. They also said it would also help provide 12 million couples with family planning. Aid groups worked together to push for a much larger investment of $24bn for the cause. They got less than a third of what they asked for. “The G8 commitment to maternal health is extremely disappointing,” said Oxfam Canada’s Robert Fox. “Last year the G8 committed $22bn over three years for food security. This year when the focus is on women’s health, they can muster only $5bn (about £3bn) over five years, $7.3 billion, if you include the longer list of donors.”

This is a sad message to the women and girls of Africa, Asia and Latin America where nearly 1,000 women die each day in childbirth and in complications related to pregnancy, according to Oxfam. Mr Fox also warned that with total G8 aid pie shrinking, any ‘new’ money for maternal health may have to be taken from other vital areas such as education and food. Dorothy Ngoma, the Executive Director of the National Organization of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi who went to the talks said getting the issue of e international radar was progress but questioned how the G8 will find the money.“As a mid-wife, I believe it is crucial to invest in the health of mothers,” she told Oxfam Canada. “But I also know the importance of food on the table and clean water to drink. No one should be forced to choose between these. New promises won’t do much good if old ones are ignored.” World Vision, president Dave Toycen told Canadian TV that the pledge although not what aid groups had hoped for was a change for the better. 

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