Defining a maternal and child health strategy for developing countries is the least of the G8’s challenges on the aid front right now.

At a key meeting of G8 development ministers in Halifax, Canada’s Bev Oda is confident she will find enough common ground to announce progress on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s signature G8 agenda item.

“Development ministers are going to agree on a way forward,” said Oda’s spokeswoman Jessica Fletcher.

Oda is also expected to add some clarity to Canada’s own approach to improving the lives of mothers and their young children in poor countries, amidst criticism Ottawa is trying to sidestep inclusion of abortion and family planning.

More problematic, however, is Canada’s goal to make sure countries are living up to their substantial — and expensive — promises of the past.

The meeting, to prepare for the June summit in Toronto, comes at a time when government funding is in short supply around the world, and the very case for any international aid at all is being called into question by a growing pile of publications and high-profile critics.

“Critics argue that aid does not reach its intended recipients because it is siphoned off through corruption,” Oxfam International says in a report obtained by The Canadian Press, to be published later this week.

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