TORONTO, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday Canada will contribute 2.85 billion Canadian dollars (2.75 billion U.S. dollars) over five years to a maternal, newborn and child health initiative among G8 countries.
Together, the Group of Eight members have committed five billion U.S. dollars over the next five years, Harper told a press conference.
"In addition to our G8 partners, we would also like to thank the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the Gates Foundation and the United Nations Foundation. And we encourage other countries and foundations to join us in this initiative," he said.
"Together, we are committed to moving the world towards a day when women in developing countries will not die, or suffer disabilities, from pregnancy or childbirth," he said.
Each year, an estimated 500,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth, with millions more suffering injury and disability, while some 9 million children die before they turn five, according to statistics released by the Canadian government.
As this year's G8 president and the summit host, Canada "recognized an important opportunity for the G8 to advance progress in reducing child mortality and improving maternal health," said a government statement.
In a small Canadian resort town in the Muskoka lakes region, the G8 leaders will seek to mobilize the global community by championing a major initiative to improve maternal, newborn and child health, which will be delivered in partnership with developing countries, other donors, international organizations and civil society, the statement said.
"This will represent a key G8 contribution in advance of the September 2010 UN Plenary Meeting to review progress on the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals)," it added.
In Friday's statement, Harper also stressed that accountability for results will be an integral part of Canada's contribution to the Muskoka Initiative.
"We will design a rigorous accountability framework to measure our progress, track results and ensure that Canadians' aid dollars are used effectively to contribute to a sustainable reduction in maternal and child mortality," he pledged.
Christian relief organization World Vision welcomed Canada's contribution, but expressed disappointment at the G8 effort as a whole.
"We're pleased with Canada's contributions and some fresh G8 pledges, but I'll still be waking up at night haunted by the thought of the millions of children who will remain unable to get the lifesaving basic healthcare they deserve," said Dave Toycen, CEO of World Vision Canada.
The Muskoka 2010 G8 summit, which has also invited representatives of the European Union and leaders from 10 developing countries mainly in Africa and Latin America, is also expected to cover topics like food security, aid to Africa, the fight against terrorism and piracy, peace in the Middle East, and nuclear non-proliferation.
The summit is scheduled to end by Saturday noon, and will be followed immediately by a summit of the G20, composed of all major developed and emerging economies, in Canada's largest city Toronto on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.