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Canada to spend $36M to help improve health of African women and children

GENEVA - Canada plans to spend another $36 million over seven years to help improve the lives of women and children in sub-Saharan Africa.

The announcement was made Wednesday by Health Minister Rona Ambrose during the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The $36 million will help pay for research in nine countries into the primary health care needs of mothers, newborns and children.

The funding comes ahead of an international summit to be held in Toronto from May 28 to 30 to help shape future action on maternal and child health issues.

Canada had earlier pledged to spend $2.85 billion between 2010 and 2015 to assist women and children in developing countries. The pledge was made as part of the so-called Muskoka Initiative in June 2010 as part of the G8 summit in Toronto.

Canada and its G8 partners committed a total of $7.3 billion to improve the health of mothers and children in the world's poorest countries.

The federal government says 80 per cent of the $2.85 billion it pledged during the summit has already been disbursed.

"Under Canada's leadership, global attention and resources have been mobilized around maternal and child health issues," said Ambrose in a statement.

She said the Muskoka plan "has saved countless lives and improved the health of millions of mothers, newborns and children in the developing world."

According to federal government figures, the number of women who die each year during pregnancy or childbirth has dropped by 47 per cent since 1990. There were 543,000 deaths that year compared to 287,000 in 2010.

During the same period, the number of deaths in children under the age of five has dropped 45 per cent from nearly 12 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012.

"Maternal mortality rates are declining and millions more children are celebrating their fifth birthday," said International Development Minister Christian Paradis.

"Canada's leadership in this area reflects the values of millions of Canadians who believe that we cannot stand idly by while the poorest and most vulnerable suffer deaths that are easily and inexpensively prevented."

The nine countries that are part of the latest initiative are Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mali, Senegal, South Sudan, Malawi and Nigeria.

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