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Canada says G8 to focus on maternal, child health

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at a news conference about last week's earthquake in Haiti, at the Lester B. Pearson Building in Ottawa in this January 23, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will use its presidency of the Group of Eight leading nations to push for improvements in maternal and child health in poor countries, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in an editorial published on Tuesday.

Canada is chair of the G8 this year and will host a summit in June. It also will co-host a summit of the Group of 20 leading and developing nations, which is now the main forum for discussing the global economy.

Harper said it is unacceptable that 500,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth every year and that 9 million children die before their fifth birthday.

“Members of the G8 can make a tangible difference in maternal and child health and Canada will be making this the top priority in June. Far too many lives and unexplored futures have already been lost for want of relatively simple health care solutions,” he wrote.

Harper said solutions such as providing clean water, vaccinations and better nutrition, as well as funding the training of health workers, are inexpensive.

“We have an obligation to assist those that are most vulnerable to hardship. Canada hopes members of the G8 will rally together on this,” said the editorial, which was published in the Toronto Star and La Presse newspapers.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Will Dunham