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Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, meets with Abou Diouf, Secretary General of La Francophonie, on Friday, Oct. 22, 2010. Harper is in Europe from Oct. 21st to Oct. 26th to take part in the Francophonie Summit in Montreux, Switzerland and visit to Kyiv and Lviv, Ukraine.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Canada will invest $43.4-million in new aid to Francophone African countries, the most tangible product of Stephen Harper's trip to the weekend's summit of Francophone nations.

The funding, part of $1.1-billion in aid that the Conservative government promised in June to protect mothers and their children at the G8 summit of leading developed nations in Huntsville, Muskoka, will help protect 1.1 million women and children from malnourishment and sexual violence.

The measures aim as well to improve water management in the Niger River Basin, improve the quality of microfinance programs in Benin, protect the forests of the Congo River Basin, and improve agricultural practices in Senegal.

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Although the Canadian International Development Agency has restricted the number of African nations receiving assistance, in order to better target available funding, this initiative will be more broadly spread.

"More than 80 per cent of our aid" from the so-called Muskoka initiative "will be going to Africa," Mr. Harper announced here, Sunday, at the conclusion of the conference. Some of the aid will stretch out over seven years, while other programs aim at a more immediate effect.

Member nations of La Francophonie promised to do all they could to aid stricken Haiti, which is confronted with a cholera outbreak even as it struggles to rebuild in the wake of January's devastating earthquake. But for most countries, that promise was symbolic.

"Let's be frank--the big donor countries here are France and Canada," Mr. Harper observed. "...many of the countries of the Francophonie are themselves developing countries with significant challenges, but even they, where they can do so, have been willing to assist Haiti."

The Conservative government also announced over the weekend that it would dedicate $1-million to fight the cholera outbreak, which has killed at least 200 people so far.

There have been suggestions that Canada should be sending its Disaster Assistance Response Team back to Haiti. The DART is equipped with sophisticated water purification equipment, which could help combat the outbreak.

"We don't deploy the DART unless the DART is requested," Mr. Harper responded when asked by a reporter why it hadn't been sent.

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"To my knowledge there has not been a request at this point, but obviously when it comes to our Haitian friends, if there is anything tangible that we can do that is requested by the government of Haiti we will look upon that request as favourably as possible," he said.

A representative of the Haiti delegation to the conference told CTV that Haiti had not asked for the DART because it believes it can contain the epidemic.

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