G8 Launches Maternal and Child Health Initiative

Mothers with their babies in Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by: Julien Harneis / CC BY-SA 2.0 Julien HarneisCC BY-SA 2.0

G-8 leaders approved June 26 an initiative aimed at significantly reducing the number of maternal and newborn deaths in developing countries. The leaders have pledged to mobilize USD5 billion worth of funding for the program over the next five years.

The money comes on top of the USD4.1 billion the G-8, as a whole, contributes to global maternal and child health programs annually.

The initiative is supported by the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland, Spain, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.N. Foundation. These partners have committed some USD2.3 billion, which will be disbursed between 2010 and 2015, according to the official declaration released at the end of the G-8 summit in Muskoka, Canada.

Through this Initiative, G-8 leaders aim to mobilize at least USD10 billion for maternal and child health over the next five years.

The program does not include a new, collective funding mechanism. Donors are free to contribute to the mechanisms they consider the most effective, including direct bilateral support, multilateral agencies and civil society partners.

The decision to give G-8 countries and their partners the independence to choose how to contribute to the maternal and child health initiative was reached by G-8 development ministers in their April meeting in Halifax.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, this year’s summit host, noted that the funding commitment was modest.

“Because of the tight budgetary situations we are seeing in many countries … my observation is that leaders have actually been very very cautious in terms of the pledges that have been made,” he said, according to Reuters.

Canada’s total contribution to the initiative amounts to 2.85 billion Canadian dollars (USD2.75 billion), which will be disbursed over five years, Harper has announced. This contribution includes 1.1 billion Canadian dollars worth of fresh funds and existing funding of 1.7 billion Canadian dollars, which the government renewed for the five-year global health initiative, according to a news release from the prime minister’s office.

UNICEF Canada welcomed this contribution but added that there are still large funding gaps in maternal and child health programs.

In addition to monetary support, Harper said Canada will also design an accountability framework that will measure the progress and track the results of Canadian aid.

During the Halifax summit, Canadian International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda announced that the country’s contribution to the maternal health initiative will not include funding for abortions abroad. This decision has roused criticisms toward Harper and his government.

Meanwhile, the U.S. made an initial commitment worth USD1.3 billion to the G-8 initiative for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. The commitment is subject to Congressional approval, according to a press release from the White House.

U.S. support to the G-8-led initiative will complement the U.S. government’s Global Health Initiative, which was launched May 2009. The USD63 billion GHI covers all countries receiving U.S. health aid, as well as eight GHI Plus countries.

The G-8 declaration also includes the leaders’ pledge to make the October 2010 replenishment round of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaraia “a success.” The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to eradicating polio and tackling neglected tropical diseases.

The declaration noted that only USD6.5 billion of the USD22 billion food security assistance pledged by G-8 members during their 2009 meeting in Italy has been allocated so far. Various groups, including ActionAid, have accused the group of neglecting its promises to boost agriculture and food security in developing countries. ActionAid said in a recent report that the details of the G-8’s 2009 food security initiative “remain shrouded in mystery.”

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.