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Govt must boost aid to prevent maternal deaths

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says maternal and child health in the Asia-Pacific region must not be forgotten this Mother’s Day, calling on the Federal Government to confirm its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals in its impending Budget.

The global financial crisis has been predicted to hit developing countries most severely, heightening the need for wealthier countries to maintain or increase their aid funding.

“This Mother’s Day, we should acknowledge that Australian mums are relatively well off when it comes to maternal and child health,” said Senator Hanson-Young.

“While maternal health services in our rural areas still need some improvement, we should also remember the needs of our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region, and Australia’s commitment to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

“It is a tragedy that 34,000 mothers and 400,000 children die each year in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The global financial crisis has made the lives of those living in poverty with poor access to health and education services all the more dire, and Australia, as a wealthy country, must play a leading role in preventing as much misery as possible.

“We have a particular responsibility to our regional neighbours. The last thing we want to see is a cut in aid funding under the guise of the global financial crisis.”

Senator Hanson-Young said the Federal Government should consider the calls of humanitarian organisations. World Vision is calling for Australia’s aid program for the provision of basic health services necessary to improve maternal and child health to be increased from $260 million this financial year to $390 million in 2009-2010, and to reach $520 million in 2010-2011.

“Those working on the ground in our region know that Australia could save thousands of lives, and what it will take to do this,” said Senator Hanson-Young.

“Despite the challenging circumstances that the world’s economic situation has created, Australia must not allow its focus to turn inward to domestic matters at the expense of those in the region who need our assistance.

“After such an encouraging start, the Federal Government must not lose momentum in fulfilling Australia’s commitment to helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

“Keeping Australian aid up will help to stabilise communities in need, where limited health services put lives at risk.

“The Greens call on the Government to increase overseas aid this Federal Budget so Australia can contribute its fair share to preventing maternal and child deaths.”

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