Children a G-8 ‘Priority’?

by Barry Weisleder

While child and maternal health is supposed to be a top priority at the G8 Summit in June, host Prime Minister Stephen Harper will have a tough time reconciling his federal budget with his public relations spin.

Ottawa’s budget freeze on foreign development aid after this year is in tune with Tory and business priorities to reduce the deficit, notwithstanding uninterrupted annual increases for the military.

Meanwhile, the tragic deaths of millions of children globally, from easily preventable diseases, proceeds at a staggering pace. Some 8.8 million children still die annually before they reach the age of five, according to World Vision Canada. That is 24,000 children per day. Seventeen per minute.

At the same time, 500,000 mothers die annually in childbirth or from other pregnancy-related causes.

A $10 bed net can protect a child from malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Access to nutritious foods can be provided at little cost. Diarrhea kills 1.5 million children annually. It is easily treated, as is malaria. Child blindness, too common in the underdeveloped world, can be prevented by just two vitamin A pills per year, at a cost of four cents.

Today the world spends $49 billion (U.S.) on pet food every year. If half of that amount were added to current spending on maternal and child health, the child death rate could be cut nearly in half.

If the big business politicians who run the G8 and G20 were forced to tax the rich and abolish military spending, humanity would have taken a big step toward solving our major problems.