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Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon gestures as he answers questions from the media following the release of the G8 Accountability report in Ottawa on Sunday, June 20, 2010. (Pawel Dwulit/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon gestures as he answers questions from the media following the release of the G8 Accountability report in Ottawa on Sunday, June 20, 2010. (Pawel Dwulit/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Globe editorial

The G8 can't wait till October to talk global health Add to ...

The developing world's future success depends on the healthy mothers and children. But the G8's failure to fully fund the historic aid commitments to Africa it made at the 2005 Gleneagles summit puts much of that success at risk. Beginning tomorrow, Stephen Harper can use the relatively intimate setting of the G8's Muskoka meeting to press for a renewal of the G8's commitment to better health for Africans, and help the developed world be truly accountable for its promises.

The opportunity comes from a threat, to the dwindling Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund is responsible for almost two-thirds of malaria and TB financing worldwide, and one-quarter of AIDS financing. It has said it needs $17- to $20-billion (U.S.) in the next three years, but donor countries are not scheduled to meet to discuss re-financing until October.

If the donors wait even a few months, many women and children will lose their lives. Programs financed by the fund help pay for anti-retroviral AIDS drugs for 2.5 million people. Now, with future funding uncertain, health providers have had to pull back.

In a Globe op-ed today, James Orbinski and James Fraser report on the human impact: in Malawi, only the sickest AIDS patients are getting treatment. Doctors Without Borders has reported that AIDS patients in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya and other African countries are being shuffled from clinic to clinic.

If HIV and TB patients halt treatment partway through, new, drug-resistant strains of disease could develop. Interrupted care may be worse than no care at all.

The biggest donor governments to the Global Fund are, in order, the U.S., France, Britain, the EU, Japan, Italy, Germany, Spain and Canada. Many G8 countries will come to Muskoka with their own agendas. But on the Global Fund and on meeting the Gleneagles commitments, there is unanimity - or there ought to be.

Mr. Harper's initiative in pledging $1-billion for childbirth-related health programming is welcome. But maternal and child health also benefits from fighting AIDS (the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age), malaria (a disease that attacks children) and TB (a highly virulent disease).

As G8 host, he should set time aside to push his peers to re-commit to the Global Fund. The world's most developed nations must live up to their promises to the world's neediest.

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