The Numbers Game: The G8 Commits $5 Billion

By: Janna Oberdorf, Communications Manager for Women Deliver

Following up on Canada’s pledge of $1.1 billion of new money over five years, the G8 countries pledge a total of $5 billion. Bolstered by another $2.3 billion from six non-G8 countries, the Gates Foundation, and the UN Foundation, that brings the total contributions to maternal and child health to $7.3 billion.

“Some countries pledged relatively more than others, at least relative to the size of their economies,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “Obviously the differences in pledges have to do with differences in priorities, but also differences in financial situations.”

This is great news, and a great start. Canada, and Prime Minister Harper, should be proud of their efforts to lead and champion the maternal and child health causes. But, Canada is definitely in the lead when it comes to financial pledges, and we wish that the other G8 leaders weren’t so far behind.

According to The Globe and Mail, Britain offered $300 million a year for two years; the US committed $1.3 billion over two years (subject to Congressional approval); Germany contributed more than $500 million; Japan about $500 million; France about $400 million; and Italy, less.

These funds don’t cover the additional $12 billion a year that is needed to fulfill the unmet need for family planning and provide every woman with the recommended standard of maternal and newborn care. Plus, these funds cover both maternal and child health.

The financial commitments do fall short. But we hope that these pledges are just the beginning, that they will encourage other nations, especially developing nations themselves, to increase and commit new funding, and that the pledging is not over. Canada should be commended for putting maternal health at the forefront of the G8 discussions, and now we need all the nations of the world to step up and take greater action.

Beyond the funding contributions, it’s heartening to see the G8 leaders come together with such agreement and consensus on a development issue. There’s no denying that women and mothers were THE priority at the G8. As advocates, we need to acknowledge that these nations are moving in the right direction as we nudge them further and more rapidly down the path.

As for G20 leaders, whose summit begins today and does not explicitly prioritize maternal health, but instead addresses international economic development, we say: The answer is right next to you. Women drive economic development. They operate the majority of small businesses and farms in developing countries and their unpaid work at home equals about 1/3 of world GDP. When women are allowed to die in pregnancy and childbirth, we lose as much as US $15 billion dollars in productivity. This time there needs to be swift action and substantial capital committed. Invest in women, it pays.

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