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Harper pledges $3.5B to improve maternal and newborn health 0

Jessica Hume. (Andre Forget/QMI AGENCY)

By Jessica Hume, National Bureau

Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes a speech during the Maternal Health Summit in Toronto, Thursday, May 29, 2014. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes a speech during the Maternal Health Summit in Toronto, Thursday, May 29, 2014. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)

TORONTO - Canada has pledged $3.5 billion for programs aimed at improving maternal and newborn health in developing countries, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday.

The funding promise was made on the second of a three-day international conference on the subject and is a continuation of funds previously committed as part of the Millenium Development Goals - a pact among eight developed countries to tackle global challenges including access to clean drinking water, combating HIV/AIDS, as well as high numbers of preventable deaths among women and children.

In 2010, an international meeting was held in Muskoka, Ont., where developing nations agreed that maternal and baby health was a top development priority. At the time, Canada contributed almost $3 billion to the cause.

The Millennium Development Goals were given a 2015 deadline.

Harper is hoping the funding announcement will establish a standard other developed countries will follow.

On Wednesday, Harper expressed disappointment that a UN review found those goals likely won't be met by 2015.

The new funding is allocated for between 2015 and 2020 with the purpose of continuing efforts to meet the millennium goals.

"We now have a better idea of what works and what doesn't," he said. "But we're not done yet."

However, the government has been criticized for excluding abortion and birth control programs from its funding.

NDP MP Helene Laverdiere said Harper's efforts only takes half of women's issues into account, slamming the government's refusal to include access to safe abortion and family planning as part of its programming.

"If he wants to save every woman, every child, well 47,000 women die every year because of unsafe abortions," she told QMI Agency. "Women have to have better control of their reproductive rights; we know that when women are healthy and educated, they contribute more to society."

 

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