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Reproductive Health Activists Call on G-8 For More Funding [Part 2 of 5]


A partnership of NGOs, governments, and UN agencies is calling on G-8 leaders to provide more funding to help reduce death rates among pregnant women and infants in the developing world. The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health is asking for US$10 billion to meet previous commitments to global health. The partnership is also asking for new long-term financing. Experts say an increase in funding could prevent at least six million mother and child deaths every year. From Cape Town, Voice of America English to Africa service's Unathi Kondile reports that in recent years donors have provided billions of dollars in funding for maternal, newborn and child health. But health experts say the 68 countries with the highest rates of maternal and child mortality need more.

A total of some US$1 billion per year would be needed to improve services in the African continent alone.

Purnima Mane is a top official with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA:)

"The expectation that I have is that national governments will increase their own budgets to these areas because unless you put up your own budgets – no donor is going to be interested to put money. Secondly, I hope that some of the donors [will increase their contributions]. – I know that some of the donors have already [done so, including] Norway, Canada, to mention a few, have already put in extra funding this year and given more money to these areas. And it's not like they're talking - they're giving."

Mane says international funding must also be distributed evenly, "For example, there is hardly any money going towards family planning. And good family planning actually contributes to better maternal health because women have less children, they plan their babies -- they're much more wanted, women's bodies are in better shape. In fact there is a decrease in funding in family planning. That's a disturbing trend!"

Other concerns focus on who will manage the programs. In theory, local and national governments direct how the money should be spent, but some political leaders, like Saudatu Sani, say that's not always the case. Sani is a parliamentarian from Nigeria,

"Donors come with their pack and they come with conditions and I think that is unacceptable. If you want to help Nigeria or any country, come and buy into our program. Because I know what is happening to my constituency, I know what is happening to my country, I know what is my problem. But don't tell me where to sit a project or put $2 billion dollars. So really it's outrageous it's unacceptable – we are not beggars – this is a partnership. We are not saying bring your money and then put conditions on it. No. If you want to bring your money come, but bring your money to where I need it, not where you think [you] should put it."

According to the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and child health, some countries have begun to reduce their newborn and child death rates. Despite lower per capita income, six countries – Eritrea, Malawi, Burkina Fuso, Madagascar, Tanzania and Uganda – have reduced the death rates of newborns to between 24 and 32 per 1000 births.

Tanzania has reduced its child mortality rates by 30% and decreased newborn deaths by 20% over the past five years. Tanzania's government -- especially its health minister -- is credited with the improvement. They established local budget priorities and increased government spending on essential maternal and child health care.

Health experts say others are moving to protect poor families from rising health care costs. Zambia has abolished user fees, while Burundi now has ended fees for childbirth care and for the care for children under five. Experts say they hope moves like these will help Africa reach the UN's Millennium Development Goals calling for cutting the rate of child and maternal mortality by 2015.