At a three-day international maternal health summit in Toronto last week, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, announced that Canada has pledged $3.5 billion for programs aimed at improving maternal and newborn health in developing countries.

“There is no better investment in the world’s future prosperity than women’s and children’s health,” said United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the summit.

The funds will add on to previously committed funds for the Millenium Development Goals - goals and strategies agreed to by all the world’s countries and leading development institutions to eradicate poverty and hunger, improve maternal health, and reduce child mortality, among other issues, by a target date of 2015. Canada’s funds will be allocated for between 2015 and 2020.

99 percent of pregnancy related deaths occur in the developing world. Each year, 529,000 women and girls die worldwide due to complications related to pregnancy. Millions more are left maimed or injured. In addition, some 70,000 women and girls die annually from unsafe, often illegal abortions. Unfortunately, Canada’s pledge excludes abortion and birth control from its funding.

“Women have to have better control of their reproductive rights; we know that when women are healthy and educated, they contribute more to society,” said NDP MP Helene Laverdiere in protest of the exclusion.

Media Resources: United Nations; Fort Erie Times 5/29/14; Toronto Sun 5/30/14; Feminist Majority Foundation; Feminist Newswire 5/9/14; Feminist Majority 2/14/14

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