Gates Throws Down Gauntlet Ahead of Harper's Child, Maternal Health Summit

Article excerpt

Deaths of poor children preventable: Gates

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OTTAWA - An unacceptable number of newborn babies are dying in poor countries because the developed world simply isn't investing enough money to save them, says noted philanthropist Melinda Gates.

Gates issued an international call for more funding Tuesday as she helped launch new research in the medical journal The Lancet on the plight of new mothers, babies and young children in developing countries.

The frank talk from Gates means there will be more pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make further spending commitments as he hosts a major international meeting next week on his signature aid initiative -- maternal, newborn and child health.

Harper committed $2.8 billion to cause at the G8 summit Canada hosted in 2010, and is chairing a three-day international meeting in Toronto May 28-30 as a follow-up to raise awareness.

Each year 2.9 million newborn babies die around the world, while another 2.6 million are stillborn, the Lancet study concluded.

That's half as many as in 1990, but the mortality rate is still too high, according to the 55 experts from 18 countries that contributed to Tuesday's report.

"While the statistics about newborn babies are dire, they point to opportunity for improvement. Many newborn deaths could have been prevented with existing interventions," Gates writes in a piece co-authored with Rwanda's health minister, Agnes Binaghawo.

"These babies are dying not because we lack the knowledge to save them; they are dying for a lack of attention and investment."

Gates is the co-chair of the foundation named after her and her husband, Bill. Their foundation joined six countries in contributing to Harper's initiative in 2010.

Gates and Binaghawo argue that more money should be spent because "the evidence shows that a few inexpensive, proven interventions can go a long way."

That includes better care for pregnant women and newborns at the time of birth and modest improvements in the care of sick newborns. …