Maternal, Newborn and Child Health

Canada's Leadership

Improving the health of mothers, newborns and children and reducing the number of preventable deaths are top priorities for Canada. At the Saving Every Woman, Every Child Summit held in Toronto from May 28 to 30, 2014, Prime Minister Harper announced Canada's commitment of $3.5 billion to improve the health of mothers and children for the period of 2015–2020, supporting  global efforts to end the preventable deaths of mothers, newborn and children younger than age five.

On the margins of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in the Fall of 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper co-hosted a high-level meeting on women's and children's health, identifying maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) as Canada's "flagship development priority."

Each year, hundreds of thousands of women die during pregnancy or childbirth and, in 2012, 6.6 million children died before reaching the age of five. Many of these deaths can be prevented by cost-effective, evidence-based interventions.

In 2010, as part of its G-8 presidency, Canada launched a global effort—the Muskoka Initiative—to mobilize global action to reduce maternal mortality and improve the health of mothers and children in the world's poorest countries.

Canada is providing $1.1 billion in new funding between 2010 and 2015. Canada is also providing $1.75 billion in ongoing spending on maternal, newborn and child health programming, a total contribution of $2.85 billion.

In November 2010, Canada outlined how its $2.85 billion contribution to the Muskoka Initiative would be organized. Through the MNCH initiative, funding follows three integrated paths, focuses on ten countries and involves multilateral, global and Canadian partners.

Focus on three paths

Strengthening health systems to improve service delivery to maternal, newborn and child health at the local level by training more health workers and increasing access to adequately equipped local health centres. Canada is working with country partners to:

  • Support national plans and priorities regarding maternal, newborn and child health
  • Fill gaps in health systems (for example, by training more health workers, by increasing access to health facilities, by ensuring health facilities and personnel are sufficiently equipped, and by implementing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms)
  • Expand access to services

Reducing the burden of leading diseases affecting mothers and children. Canada is supporting the provision of life-saving medicines, vaccines, and actions needed to prevent and treat the prevalent diseases and illnesses that are the main causes of maternal, newborn and child mortality.

Improving nutrition by increasing access to healthy and nutritious food, and essential micronutrient supplements that improve and save lives. Canada supports initiatives that improve nutritional health by:

  • Improving infant and child-feeding practices
  • Promoting exclusive breastfeeding

Providing ready-to-use therapeutic foods and key vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A supplements and iodized salt.

Focus on 10 countries

Canada's geographic investments focus on countries with high child and maternal morbidity and mortality rates that have demonstrated they can make progress on maternal, newborn and child health. In these countries, Canada works to increase access to health centres at the local level and ensure its sustainability over the long term. Canada focuses its efforts on the following 10 countries:

Partnerships with multilateral, global and Canadian organizations

With multilateral and global partners, such as UN agencies, Canada works in countries where the need is greatest across the three paths of the initiative. Canada continues to support the following:

  • The Micronutrient Initiative (MI), which delivers essential vitamin and mineral supplements around the world, saving lives and ensuring children get the chance to reach their full potential. With Canada’s support, work through the Micronutrient Initiative maternal, newborn and child survival programs has ensured that:
    • an average of more than 180 million children under five receive two doses of vitamin A each year – a key nutritional element for the immune system to protect the body from disease
    • more than 300 million people were reached with iodized salt to prevent iodine deficiency – the main cause of preventable mental impairments
    • improved treatment for severe acute malnutrition for more than 60,000 children
    • nearly 2 million pregnant women received iron and folic acid supplements for healthier pregnancies
  • The GAVI Alliance, which works to introduce new and underused vaccines against deadly diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease in the poorest countries—two of the biggest killers of young children. With support for GAVI Alliance programs, Canada has:
    • contributed to fully immunizing an additional 145 million children during 2010-2013, reaching more than 440 million children since the creation of the GAVI Alliance in 2000
    • helped, so far, more than 30 developing countries to accelerate the introduction of vaccines against pneumonia by a decade, preventing

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to safeguard substantial achievements already made in developing countries and to expand prevention, care, and treatment for those most vulnerable to the three diseases. Since its creation in 2002, with support from Canada and other international donors, the Global Fund:

  • is providing lifesaving AIDS treatment to 6.1 million people
  • has provided 2.4 million HIV-positive pregnant women with treatment to prevent HIV transmission to their newborns
  • has detected and treated 11.2 million cases of tuberculosis and
  • has distributed 360 million insecticide-treated nets to protect families against malaria

Canadian partners engage the expertise of health practitioners and extensive networks of local civil society organizations to address local and national health priorities. Through community-based efforts to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality, they can extend the reach of national health services to rural and underserved areas. In many high-burden countries, civil society organizations provide the main platform by which to reach vulnerable groups and are able to respond in a timely and effective way to needs identified by communities.

Launched on November 2, 2010, the Muskoka Initiative Partnership Program is providing $82 million from 2010 to 2015 to partner-driven projects that deliver concrete development results in countries with high rates of maternal and child morbidity and mortality. Results include:

  • Expanded access to basic health care for more than 42,000 women of childbearing age in Bangladesh, as a result of training 373 birth attendants, building 13 village maternal and child health centres, and providing 26 locally appropriate emergency transfer vehicles, such as tricycle or boat ambulances
  • Increased disease prevention in Ethiopia through clinical outreach sites, which have provided vaccinations to nearly 9,000 children and antenatal care, including HIV testing and counselling on prevention of mother-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, for more than 1,300 pregnant women
  • Improved awareness of nutrition issues in Mali and Mozambique by training 707 people (621 women) from community groups in effective nutrition practices, including infant feeding, as well as training 1,567 community health workers to identify nutrition problems in pregnant and breastfeeding women and in children under five

In addition, a $1.8 million project with the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health is working to increase effectiveness, collaboration and coordination among more than 60 Canadian organizations engaged in MNCH initiatives.

For more information on specific MNCH projects supported by Canada in various countries and regions around the world, please visit the Project Browser.