September 17, 2016 - 7:00 AM
MONTREAL - Canada is challenging the world to step up and pledge money to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday on the first day of an international donor conference in Montreal.
Delegates from around the world are in the city for two days hoping to raise $13 billion U.S. to replenish the Global Fund, which was set up to pool money to fight the three major infectious diseases.
Trudeau, who is hosting the event, said Canada has already promised more than $800 million for the 2017-19 funding period and he called on countries to "pledge with compassion, pledge with ambition."
"We must lead by example," he told delegates during his opening remarks. "And we must work together. Because when we do, we show the world what can be accomplished when we unite in common purpose."
The conference includes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, rock star Bono and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates.
David Morley, president and CEO of Unicef Canada said the Global Fund centralizes resources, cuts down on administrative costs and makes it easier for organizations such as his to transfer funds to governments in need of help.
Additionally, the Global Fund buys drugs in bulk, he said, which makes them cheaper and more accessible.
Morley said Canada should play a leadership role in asking wealthy countries to contribute more money to the cause.
"Canada can go to other rich countries like Sweden and Germany and say 'we're stepping up; you step up,' " he said.
Morley added that drugs are less expensive and more available than they used to be 15 years ago. Today, the major issues around fighting these diseases is strengthening local health networks and fighting discrimination and stigma, he said.
The conference is designed to show Canadian leadership on the international stage ahead of what is expected to be Trudeau's first address to the United Nations General Assembly next week.
In his remarks Friday, Trudeau said AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis kill roughly 8,000 people every day, with girls and women in developing countries being hardest hit.
"Poverty is sexist," Trudeau said. "The women and young girls who live in poverty are particularly exposed to disease. "For them, it is more difficult to surmount obstacles that prevent them from becoming educated and they are victims every day of social and political discrimination."
His comments were reinforced by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wazed, who told delegates her country has focused on empowering women in order to fight diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
She said Bangladesh has made school free for girls up to the 12th grade and set up more than to 16,000 community clinics around the country, most of which are staffed by women offering 30 different types of medication for free.
"This has not only resulted in significant improvement in school retention of girls," she said, "but reduced underage marriage and maternal and child mortality."
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose is heading to Montreal to meet with Bono at the conference and said she agrees with Trudeau that poverty is most acute for women and girls.
Ambrose, as federal minister for the status of women, sponsored a declaration at the United Nations to create the International Day of the Girl Child, which was adopted in 2011.
"I think that every government should look at their development through a gendered lens," she said. "Women and girls are absolutely the most oppressed."
This is the fifth replenishment conference for the Global Fund.
The amount of money pledged to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis will be announced Saturday afternoon.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016