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Seeing the wood for the trees in Muskoka

Just got this note from my colleague David Morley, who heads Save the Children in Canada and played a leading role in the movement to get the G8 focused on saving mothers’ and children’s lives at their summit last weekend in Muskoka.  Hats off to David.  I wanted to share his reflections.

“At first, I was disappointed.  I was on a national TV show when the ‘Muskoka Initiative’ announcement came – the G8 countries would be giving $5 billion for maternal and child health, and other countries and foundations would be giving $2.3 billion more – and it was hard, I suspect, not to let my disappointment show.

Now, you’d think I should be pleased at hearing this, but at first I wasn’t.  Canada had made a serious investment in maternal and child health, but it looked like the other governments were not going to follow.  We had been hoping that G8 governments would commit something in range of $10 to $15 billion for the world’s poorest mothers and children – and I had thought there was a good chance we would hit that target.  Maybe I had made the mistake of believing our own press releases.

But I do believe our press releases.  I believe that a serious and substantial investment in child and maternal health would save lives, and start a virtuous circle of family health that would help local economies and spare families from the heartbreak of dying children.

We know that a simple basket of medical care can help.  A birthing kit, soap, vitamin and nutritional supplements – these are lifesaving tools when placed in the hands of a local, trained community health worker.  Why couldn’t we get all the world leaders to commit all the money needed to make this summit a game-changer for the world’s poorest women and children?

On the day after the announcement I was on another TV panel.  When the host asked if the Muskoka Initiative was a failure one of the other panelists leapt in and said, “Of course not – how can we say it is a failure when there is $7 billion new dollars for child and maternal health!”

That made me think again – because something special has happened at this summit.  Six months ago, no one in power was talking about maternal and child health.  There is no way that national and international media would have been discussing how best to help children, or would have cared what Save the Children thought about the issue.  World leaders wouldn’t be talking about the issue, and then putting some money – not enough yet, but some – where their mouths were to do something about it.

Less than a year ago a group of Canadian NGOs came together to talk with government officials to try and put child and maternal health on our government’s G8 radar.  It was a long shot, we felt, but we had to try it.   Nobody was really talking about the issue then – and now billions of dollars have been committed to this cause.  I know it’s not enough.  I know we need to keep raising the issue, make sure the UN MDG Summit in September is a success, keep pressing with the G20 in South Korea next fall.

Two years ago nobody was talking about child and maternal health.  Two years ago most people thought that all those deaths were all but inevitable.  Now we know better.  People can no longer claim ignorance.  And our work – from the hungriest parts of the world to the corridors of power, and with concerned citizens around the world, has just begun.”

David Morley | President and CEO | Save the Children Canada

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