$40 bn pledged for UN work to save babies, mothers

The pledges came on the final day of the UN General Assembly session on the Millennium Development Goals, which began Monday with government leaders in attendance to give a renewed boost to the plan, whose success depends on available resources.

The assembly has agreed on an outcome document to end the three-day debate, which will renew all governments' commitment to try to achieve results as specified in the MDGs. The fresh money will save the lives of 16 million women by 2015, which is the target year for the MDGs to show concrete results. The plan calls for reducing by two-thirds infant and maternal deaths.

Other goals include reducing reducing extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and primary education for all children. The UN said the money will prevent 33 million unwanted pregnancies while protecting 120 million children from pneumonia and 88 million children from stunting.

"We know what works to save women's and children's lives, and we know that women and children are critical to all of the goals," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said. "Today, we are witnessing the kind of leadership we have long needed." The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $1.5 billion for the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, while Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and the Salud Mesoamerica foundation pledged $50 million each.

Other donors include the BBC World Trust with $30 million, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation with $28 million, the UN Foundation and its partners with $400 million and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation with $120 million.

A major part of the fresh pledges was made by the world's eight leading industrialised nations (G8), which held their annual summit in June in Toronto. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged 1.1 billion Canadian dollars in new and additional money for women's and children's health under the Muskoka Initiative. Government leaders attending the MDG conference joined together Wednesday to call for stronger action to advance the goals of solving poverty and health problems and providing sanitation and water for all people.

The UN estimated that at least 2.6 billion people do not have access to even a basic toilet and clean water, the consequences of which include diarrhoea, the biggest killer of children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf said: "We cannot wait another 10 years. Let us act now to ensure that citizens everywhere can live healthy and dignified lives, full of the promise and potential that is their right."

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