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EU Pledges EUR 320 Mln. For Improving Child, Maternal Health

The European Union announced Wednesday it has allocated EUR 320 million ($431 million) through the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to improve the health and nutrition of children and women in 15 developing countries and to help speed progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

The EU funding will focus on tackling under-nutrition and infectious diseases, which are among the root causes of child mortality. It will finance multi-year programs that focus on improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, as well as quality medical services, health care and adequate nutrition.

The allocation represents a 350 percent increase in development funding from the European Union to UNICEF since 2008.

"Today's announcement shows what a difference we can make when we work together, and our partnership with UNICEF will help us reach even more of the people who most need our help," European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs told the UNICEF Executive Board in New York.

"Much remains to be done before the 2015 deadline for achieving the MDGs and these projects will help us build on the achievements made so far," he added.

While child mortality rates have declined from an estimated 12.6 million in 1990 to approximately 6.6 million in 2012, around 18,000 children still die of preventable diseases each day. At current trends, the world will not meet Millennium Development Goal 4 - to cut the rate of under-five mortality by two-thirds - until 2028.

All of the countries receiving the EU funding announced Wednesday are based in Africa with the exception Timor-Leste. They include Burundi, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

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