G8 Communiqué Commits to Maternal Health, Child Health, and Family Planning; Safe Abortion Absent

By: Janna Oberdorf, Communications Manager for Women Deliver

The G8 leaders have released their communiqué, the consensus reached during the last two days of discussions. As we’ve blogged about over the past days, Canada placed maternal and child health at the forefront of the G8 discussion. As the communiqué states:

“Progress towards MDG 5, improving maternal health, has been unacceptably slow. Although recent data suggests maternal mortality has been declining, hundreds of thousands of women still lose their lives every year, or suffer injury, from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Much of this could be prevented with better access to strengthened health systems, and sexual and reproductive health care and services, including voluntary family planning. Progress on MDG 4, reducing child mortality, is also too slow. Nearly 9 million children die each year before their fifth birthday. These deaths profoundly concern us and underscore the need for urgent collective action. We reaffirm our strong support to significantly reduce the number of maternal, newborn and under five child deaths as a matter of immediate humanitarian and development concern. Action is required on all factors that affect the health of women and children. This includes addressing gender inequality, ensuring women’s and children’s rights and improving education for women and girls."

Other highlights in the communiqué include:


  • G8 members committed to mobilize $5 billion of additional funding over the next five years. They write that this money will go towards supporting strengthened country-led national health systems in developing countries, in order to enable delivery on key interventions along the continuum of care, i.e., pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, childbirth, infancy and early childhood.
  • The Governments of the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Spain and Switzerland, subject to their respective budgetary processes, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UN Foundations have now or have recently committed to additional funding of $2.3 billion to be disbursed over the same period.
  • G8 leaders say they “anticipate” that, over the period 2010-2015 the Muskoka Initiative will mobilize significantly greater than $10 billion.


  • G8 leaders will assist developing countries to i) prevent 1.3 million deaths of children under five years of age; ii) prevent 64,000 maternal deaths; and iii) enable access to modern methods of family planning by an additional 12 million couples. These results will be achieved cumulatively between 2010-2015.
  • The Initiative includes an accountability framework and reporting.
  • G8 leaders want this Initiative to give added momentum to the UN-led process to develop a Joint Action Plan to Improve the Health of Women and Children.
  • The G8 will focus efforts on training of medical personnel and on establishing stronger health innovation networks in Africa and other regions.
  • The G8 will support country-led efforts to achieve this objective by making the third voluntary replenishment conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in October 2010 a success. And, they commit to promote integration of HIV and sexual and reproductive health, rights and services within the broader context of strengthening health systems.
  • The G8 says that improving maternal and under-five child health requires comprehensive, high impact and integrated interventions at the community level, across the continuum of care, i.e., pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, childbirth, infancy, and early childhood. The Initiative includes elements such as: antenatal care; attended childbirth; postpartum care; sexual and reproductive health care and services, including voluntary family planning; health education; treatment and prevention of diseases including infectious diseases; prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; immunizations; basic nutrition and relevant actions in the field of safe drinking water and sanitation.

It’s exciting that this Initiative lays out the need for family planning programs. Ensuring access to modern contraception to every woman who needs it could prevent up to a third of maternal deaths. We know that the unmet need for family planning is huge: more than 215 million women who want to avoid or delay pregnancy are not using effective contraception. Modern contraceptives are life-changing and world-changing.

However, there is one noticeably absent issue. The communiqué mentions that “…improving maternal and under-five child health requires comprehensive, high impact and integrated interventions…” Complications from the world’s 19.7 million yearly unsafe abortions are a major public health problem in developing countries. Unsafe abortions account for 13% of all maternal deaths. Safe abortion is not something we can ignore if we want to save women’s lives, and if we truly want to offer "comprehensive" interventions. Safe abortion, when and where legal, is an essential health solution that could save millions of lives, and it shouldn't be excluded in funding mechanisms.

Read what others have to say about the G8 Communiqué and commitments:

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