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UNICEF Report Criticizes Canada’s MPs For Defeating A Generic Drugs Bill
December 19, 2012
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One of the keys in the fight against HIV and AIDS is to make the cost of antiretroviral drugs more affordable around the world.

Well recently, a private member's bill went before the House of Commons that could have led to cheaper drugs for developing countries.

However, the bill was defeated 148-141. So now, UNICEF is calling out Canada's MPs for letting it happen.

"We think it certainly was a lost opportunity and that there was some misunderstanding that went around," said David Morley, president of UNICEF Canada.

"Some members were thinking, oh we might be violating the World Trade Organization, which was not the case, that we might be allowing substandard medicine to go on the world market, which was not the case."

The proposed legislation - Bill C-398 - was tabled by NDP MP Hélène Laverdière after another version failed to pass before the last federal election.

A number of Conservative MPs supported the previous bill. But this time around, not all of them voted for the new bill.

Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau voted in favour of the last bill. But he was wasn't in the House for the vote on the new one.

This bill would have made it easier to make and export drugs to developing countries, especially ones dealing with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

UNICEF says more than two million children around the world need antiretroviral drugs, but only 28 per cent can actually get them.

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It also says the drugs could go a long way in preventing HIV infected mothers from passing on the virus to their babies.

Morley says it was very disappointing to hear that bill C-398 was defeated, especially given the government's commitment to maternal, newborn and child health.

It was unveiled at the 2010 G8 summit by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"It could have been an opportunity, I believe, for us as a country to show some strong support, frankly, for the Muskoka Initiative. It would have been a... no-cost way to follow up on some of the promises made at the summit a few years ago," Morley said.

UNICEF's criticism is part of a broader report on the most underreported stories about children's health around the world.

The report lists 10 things that are killing kids in developing countries but could be prevented:

• Meningitis
• Injury
• Pre-term birth complications
• Malaria
• Undernutrition
• Tetanus
• HIV and AIDS
• Birth asphyxia
• Diarrhea
• Pneumonia

The report says 19,000 children die every day from preventable causes, down from 33,000 about 20 years ago.

Tetanus is one of the more preventable causes of death. Morley said it could be eliminated around the world for about $110 million.

As it stands, tetanus kills one child every nine minutes.

Check out this UNICEF video.

"This is UNICEF's core belief that children should not have to die from these preventable causes," Morley said.

"There's a lot of positive steps forward so people shouldn't give up, nor should they avert their eyes. If we work together as a global community... then we can make a huge difference in the lives of children."

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