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UPDATE: Mother’s Day, Stephen Harper, and maternal health

This Sunday – Mother’s Day – is an opportunity to take another look at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s commitment (or lack thereof) to maternal health.

He has stated that maternal health and infant mortality should be a top priority of the G8 and G20 summits in the Toronto-area this June.

In fact, he 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.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “Recognizing water as a human right is vital to ensuring that governments address the reality of more than a billion people who are currently without access to clean water. A UN covenant on the right to water would serve as a common coherent body of rules for all nations, rich and poor, and clarify that it is the responsibility of the state to provide sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water to all of its citizens.”

And yet, our prime minister continues to refuse to recognize the human right to water. His government has even actively blocked movement forward on this issue  at the UN’s Human Rights Council.

Just two weeks ago, Barlow and Council of Canadians water campaigner Meera Karunananthan highlighted this in the Halifax Chronicle Herald. They wrote, “Canada has voted against resolutions to officially enshrine water as a human right at several key UN meetings.”

And in that op-ed they concluded that, “If Stephen Harper is serious about maternal health and child health, he needs to recognize that healthy mothers come from healthy communities. And healthy communities require strong public services and a clean environment.”

To read Maude and Meera’s op-ed, please go to http://canadians.org/media/council/2010/28-Apr-10.html.