Women and Children First (to Go)

Hooray!  When Canada seizes control of the agenda at the next G8 meeting, Stephen Harper is making the health of women and children a priority!  He said so in a Toronto Star opinion piece last month:

There is a pressing need for global action on maternal and child health.

As president of the G8 in 2010, Canada will champion a major initiative to improve the health of women and children in the world’s poorest regions. 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.

… The solutions are not intrinsically expensive. The cost of clean water, inoculations and better nutrition, as well as the training of health workers to care for women and deliver babies, is within the reach of any country in the G8. Much the same could be said of child mortality. The solutions are similar in nature – better nutrition, immunization – and equally inexpensive in themselves …

There is other business to be transacted at the G8 as well as informal discussions on security, nuclear proliferation and the environment. But our focus on maternal and child health will be a priority.

That’s great news!   In recent years we’ve had a hard time being as important as the economy.   The economy, of course,  is about banks, and cars and roads and bridges — all good things of course.  In fact, a road is often pretty important when it comes to bringing food to women and children who are suffering from what research scientists call “food insecurity.”  It’s a term used by the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (do they serve breakfast?) just outside Montreal.

Researchers there used survey data to learn that 69.6% of preschoolers in Nunavut are living with food insecurity.

According to the primary caregivers who were surveyed,  the littlest kids sometimes don’t eat a thing all day.  Sometimes there’s just no money to buy food.

When you’re a kid, that’s not food insecurity.  That’s hunger. And the situation is true in more places than Nunavut. Anyone who’s slurped up baloney “steaks” cooked in corn syrup and onions knows that nutrition means less to a kid or her mother than eating enough to be able to sleep.  Filling the hungry space is the important thing.  ‘Course, baloney is too expensive now to do that.

But hooray!  the health of women and children is Canada’s self-stated priority at the next G8 meeting. So funding for nutrition and childcare along with access to midwives or abortion providers will all get a lot better, right?

Photo: Elise Simpson and child pounding dry meat, Rae Lakes, 1983
Credit: Tessa Macintosh

[Image via tlichohistory.com]

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