Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak on this particular issue. I am going to talk about what I hope is a plan that the government should adopt in terms of dealing with the challenges our world faces.
The G8 and G20 are an extraordinary opportunity for the world's most powerful leaders to help those who are least advantaged in our world. When the Prime Minister announced some months ago that he was going to make maternal and child health a cornerstone of the G8, we all applauded. Canada and the world applauded because, today, 344,000 women a year die of largely preventable or treatable causes in the most underprivileged areas of the world.
When a woman dies, the chance of her children under the age of five dying is greater than 50%. Therefore, not only is this a catastrophe for her but also for her children. Unfortunately, the government chose to open up the abortion debate and substantive challenges and solutions that could be implemented have been obscured by this debate.
Saying he is not going to open up the abortion debate is exactly what the Prime Minister did, because he chose to deprive women in other countries from having the same rights as women in Canada have, which allows them to be masters of their destiny and bodies and to be in control of their lives, something that Canadian women and men for a long time fought for.
Yet while women in Canada thankfully enjoy that right, women abroad do not, and the Prime Minister chose to put Canada in a corner, away from all other G8 countries, turning back the clock of time and saying women in developing countries would not have access to a full range of family planning options, including abortion, in the countries where it is legal.
I am not going to dwell on that. Rather, I am going to talk about a plan of action that our country can adopt to take the leadership role it should be taking at the G8 summit in order to mobilize the world's most powerful countries to help those who are least privileged.
To put this in perspective, with all respect to people who are against abortion as that is their right, many have said that we need to prevent abortion and give women rights to access counselling and social services. I have news for people. That is not what happens in big chunks of the world.
I have been to Africa 26 times and worked next to a war zone twice as a physician. What happens is that women are raped. Male family members have guns put to their heads or machetes placed across their necks and are told to rape their mothers and sisters or every person in their families will be killed. That is the choice these people have. Women are raped and get pregnant. Young women get raped and get pregnant.
A 14-year-old who is raped and gets pregnant has hips that are too small to be able to carry a child to term. As a result, if she carries that baby to term, she can die or suffers from irreparable damage to her organs, including obstetric fistula, which causes her to become a pariah because she is leaking stool and urine for the rest of her life unless it is repaired. It is a horrendous situation.
That is the reality. In those countries, there is no counselling. There are no social programs or social services. In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, up to 70% of women in some towns have been raped. That is the reality in these towns. There are no social programs or social services. There is no hope. These women have nothing.
Unless they deal with the challenges they have, they get abortions that are unsafe. As a result, 68,000 women a year die of septic abortions. What part of pro-life allows those women and half of their children under the age of five to die? There is nothing pro-life about that. It is unconscionable that we are allowing that to occur. It is a crisis occurring in the world that we can do something about. We can follow the signs and the facts and do what is right in the name of life and giving these women a chance at life.
What can we do? The fact is that 344,000 women a year die of five largely preventable causes: babies get stuck; women bleed; they suffer from sepsis; they suffer from something called eclampsia where their blood pressure rises and they can have seizures and die; and lastly, 68,000 women a year die as a result of septic abortions. Again, what can we do?
The interesting thing is if one can treat a woman for the five obstetric complications she could have, one could also treat 80% of what comes through an emergency department.
How would we do it? We do it through primary health care. We enable people to have access to trained health care workers, basic medications, diagnostics, clean water, a power source, micronutrients and proper nutrition, and a fully array of family planning options and safe abortions in those countries where it is legal. If they were enabled to have access to these things, 344,000 women's lives would be saved each year and lives of the children who die, too, when the mother dies. What a remarkable thing that would be if we took charge of that.
How would we do that? We could do that by each G8 country taking a leadership role in one of those inputs. For example, Canada could take the lead on providing access to nutrition and micronutrients. The amazing micronutrient initiative at the University of Toronto that Dr. Stanley Zlotkin championed will save millions of lives.
Every year, 88,000 women die as a result of iron-deficiency anemia. Their hemoglobin is so low that when they go into delivery they bleed a bit, which pushes them over the edge, and they die. If their hemoglobin were brought up to normal, they could have a baby without hemorrhaging to death even if they bleed somewhat. Their lives could be saved for mere pennies.
The United States could take the lead in training health care workers. The French could be the lead in providing access to family planning services and abortion services in those countries where it is legal. In this way, there would be a division of labour. Each individual country could take a leadership role in one of those inputs. That does not mean to say they would do it alone, but if each country is in charge of one thing, we could have a structure that works.
How would we roll this out? The World Food Programme, the UNHCR, UNICEF and others work in some of the most impoverished places in the world. The World Food Programme has feeding centres, which provide nutrition to those people most at risk. What do we find in those areas at risk? We find people with the highest mortality and morbidity rates.
I have met with officials of the World Food Programme who told me what we could do. We could partner with the World Food Programme and other agencies. Imagine using its feeding centres and logistical system along with primary health care services. The feeding centre would provide people with access to primary health care. The logistical system would provide a sustainable route to get the assets where needed. Instead of reinventing the wheel, this would be a smart way of doing this. We could use this to get what is needed to the people who need it the most.
How would we fund it? I have a motion in the House of Commons, calling for a global fund for maternal and child health, similar to the fund we have for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. That way, we would have a global fund and funding mechanism that could partner with other foundations and development banks in other countries to get the $15 billion needed over the next six years to save lives.
The added benefit of doing this, which is quite extraordinary, which most people don't know, is that if we can treat a pregnant woman, we can also deal with 80% of what comes through an emergency department. I am speaking of the big killers, such as gastroenteritis, pneumonia, malaria, measles, tuberculosis, and above all else, malnutrition. We could do that if we had those primary health care services in place. We have a moment in time to accomplish this.
It is interesting, though, that we have not heard about any kind of plan of action from the government, even though it has had this issue in its hands for some time. I would encourage the government to look at this and look at the partnerships we have to implement this.
Imagine if we took $1 billion of the $1.2 billion that the summit is going to cost and used it to fund this very program.