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Mum’s the word at the G8 but what about the kids?

It’s looking like maternal health is finally going to get its moment in the sun at the G8 in Canada next week. Our new PM, David Cameron has condemned levels of maternal morality as “shocking and shameful” and has urged the G8 to save “three million more lives by 2015”. And the Canadian PM has been “harping” on about it for months, recently announcing that Canada is willing to invest $1 billion on maternal and child health if others do the same.

Having worked with indigenous women in northern Cambodia and the highlands of Peru, I understand why accessing healthcare is currently impossible for millions of women like them during pregnancy, delivery and in the post-natal period.

A wealth of physical and cultural barriers prevent these women from accessing health services: living miles from the nearest health centre, having no money to pay for transport or healthcare fees, no qualified health workers available once you reach the health centre or able to speak a common language so that you you communicate about your health problem…you get the picture.

This doesn’t make the impact — hundreds of thousands of women dying during pregnancy or childbirth of easily treatable conditions — any easier to stomach. It’s wrong and it has to stop.

For the half a million women dying every year in childbirth in the world’s poorest countries, there are 8.8 million children dying before they reach the age of five. Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which deal with reducing child and maternal deaths respectively, are both seriously off-track and there is research to support a unified approach to saving more mothers and children from preventable deaths.

Four in every ten deaths of children under the age of five are caused by complications or infections during or just after birth. But tackling child and maternal deaths depends on an approach which extends beyond the first month of a child’s life — in sub-Saharan Africa 75% of child deaths take place after the first month.  Access to decent food, clean water and education (for mother and child) play an equally critical role in tackling preventable death.

For a mother, her health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to that of her child. Similarly, MDGs 4 and 5 will be achieved together, or not at all.

Please take a minute to make sure David Cameron puts children and mums at the top of the G8 agenda

Here are our calls to the G8.

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