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UN promotes health campaign for poor women and children

UNITED NATIONS — The world’s nations pledged more than $40 billion to battle needless deaths among poor mothers and their children, and President Barack Obama was speaking about what America

can do to help the U.N.’s ambitious development goals.

But the struggling world economy, particularly in the U.S., raises deep concerns that the cash won’t be forthcoming. Leaders exhorted financial donors to fulfill their aid commitments.

“The crisis is no excuse for letting up our efforts, but underscores the need for actions,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he wrapped up the three-day Millennium Development Goals summit.

With many countries still hurting from the global economic crisis, the secretary-general has repeatedly urged governments not to abandon the world’s 1 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day. The U.S. and Britain said they will continue to do their part to help the global poor.

“We will keep our promises and honor our commitments,”  Obama told world leaders.

“I suspect that wealthier countries may ask — with our economies struggling, so many people out of work, and so many families barely getting by, why a summit on development?” he said. “The answer is simple. In our global economy, progress in even the poorest countries can advance the prosperity and security of people far beyond their borders, including my fellow Americans.”

Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged other countries to join Britain in meeting aid commitments.

The goals “are not simply charity, nor are they pure altruism,” Clegg said. “They are also the key to lasting safety and future prosperity.”

The issues of maternal and child mortality have been a particular focus of the summit, which reviewed efforts to implement anti-poverty goals adopted in 2000 — and found them lacking. Worldwide every year, an estimated 8 million children still die before reaching their 5th birthday, and about 350,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth.