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NEWS: Harper to cut $377 million in foreign aid

Postmedia News reports, “Twelve of the world’s poorest countries – including Afghanistan, Pakistan and seven nations in Africa – are going to be hit as the Conservative government looks to slash $377 million in foreign aid over the next three years, Postmedia News has learned. …A source within the Canadian International Development Agency said Benin, Niger, Cambodia, China, Nepal, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe are expected to lose virtually all Canadian aid funding. At the same time, the source said, reductions are planned for five major aid recipients: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Mozambique, Pakistan and Tanzania.”

Countries with mining interests
“Bolivia, Mozambique and Tanzania – all of which are home to significant Canadian mining and energy interests – had been identified as so-called CIDA ‘countries of focus’, which meant they were among a list of 20 nations receiving the brunt of Canadian assistance. Their inclusion is a surprise, particularly Tanzania, which has been an important ally of Canada in the eastern part of Africa and is home to large investments by Barrick Gold and other companies.”

With respect to CIDA ‘countries of focus’, in early-March former Common Frontiers coordinator Rick Arnold wrote in Embassy magazine, “Controversy erupted recently about new funding arrangements announced by the Canadian International Development Agency that would hook CIDA up with the mining industry and have both channelling funds to South America and Africa via a handful of international NGOs.” More on that at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13936.

The right to water and sanitation
Prior to the G8 and G20 summits in June 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that the solution to the ‘unacceptable’ situation of 500,000 women who die during childbirth and 9 million children who die before the age of five every year need not be expensive, noting the cost of providing clean water, inoculations, better nutrition and training of health workers ‘is within the reach’ of any of the G8 countries.

In late-December 2010, the Globe and Mail reported, “Harper will co-chair, with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, a United Nations commission tasked with tracking whether $40-billion in pledges from countries and aid groups are really flowing to efforts to improve the health of mothers and young children in poor countries, and what impact the programs have. …The assignment fits closely with the priorities Mr. Harper set out at the Muskoka G8 summit he hosted in June. …The new role also harks back to a week in September, when Mr. Harper told the UN conference on Millennium Development Goals that that they had to not just make promises to combat maternal and child deaths, but deliver.”

By its own accounting, the G8 has failed to deliver on $10 billion of its past pledges. Other estimates put that shortfall at $20 billion or more.

In Afghanistan, where Canadian aid will be cut, the United Nations Children’s Fund has estimated that only 23 percent of its estimated 27 million people have access to clean drinking water and that annually up to 50,000 children die from diarrhoeal diseases in that country. That’s at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=3153. While Canada had an estimated $18.1 billion to spend on the war in Afghanistan, apparently we don’t have the money to support the right to water and sanitation there.

In Mozambique, another country where Canadian aid will be reduced, only 43 percent of the population has access to safe water and 32 percent has access to adequate sanitation. When Canada’s minister of international cooperation Bev Oda visited there in August 2010 she wrote, “Only one other clinic has drinking water; two others have wells nearby. It is difficult to imagine a health facility without clean drinking water.” She also observed, “They were proud to note that the incidence of malaria is decreasing but were very frank with me about the challenges they face―including unreliable access to potable water which travels to the island via a 25-km pipeline just two hours a day.” That’s at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=3825.