Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged to pump another $3.5 billion into improving maternal care. Photo by Vanessa Santilli

Harper pledges another $3.5 billion for maternal care

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  • May 28, 2014

TORONTO - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged to pump another $3.5 billion into improving the health of mothers, newborns and children in the developing world between 2015 and 2020.

The promise, announced in Toronto on May 29, continues — and tops up — the $2.85 billion Canadian commitment from the Muskoka Initiative from 2010, which ends next year.

"Giving back and stepping up is the Canadian way," said Harper, who made the announcement at Davisville Junior Public School in midtown Toronto on day two of the Saving Every Woman, Every Child: Within Arm's Reach summit hosted by the Canadian government in Toronto.

"We shall increase our most cost-effective immunization investments," said Harper, along with improving nutrition and the strengthening of health systems — including the gathering and management of vital statistics.

Between 2010 and 2013, two million deaths were prevented because more children had access to simple immunizations, said Harper.

"Some 180 million children received life-saving Vitamin A capsules — something that's proven to reduce child mortality by up to 25 per cent."

But no one country or government can do it all, he added.

"The task of saving the world's poorest children requires the full involvement of our civil society."

He said over the next 18 months, the government's intention is to use every reasonable opportunity to persuade their international partners to join Canada.

The announced funding is more than the $3.25 billion the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health — an aid group comprised of 70 Canadian organizations — was hoping for.

“Today’s announcement of renewed funding shows the world that Canada is committed to continuing its leadership role," wrote Dorothy Shaw, co-chair of the network, in a statement on its website.

"This reflects a wise Canadian investment and the values of millions of Canadians who support this effort and truly care about women and children around the world. Because of these Canadian values and leadership, more lives are being saved than ever before.”

Melinda Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke immediately after Harper to applaud the commitment.

"This Muskoka Initiative showed leadership and showed we can make progress… This is another sign of leadership and stepping up."

(Santili is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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