The Muskoka Initiative: Background

Announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the G8 Summit in June 2010, the Muskoka Initiative has helped to address the significant gaps that exist in maternal, newborn, and child health in developing countries. According to World Health Organization and World Bank estimates, from 2010 to 2015, the Muskoka Initiative will assist developing countries to:

  • prevent the deaths of 1.3 million children under five years of age
  • prevent the deaths of 64,000 mothers
  • give access to modern methods of family planning for 12 million couples

The Muskoka Initiative includes such elements as:

  • prenatal care
  • attended childbirth
  • postpartum care
  • sexual and reproductive health care and services, including voluntary family planning
  • health education
  • treatment and prevention of diseases, including infectious diseases
  • prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV
  • immunization
  • basic nutrition
  • safe drinking water and sanitation

The Muskoka Initiative is based on a set of core principles for long-lasting results that were developed under Canada’s  leadership at the 2010 Halifax meeting of G8 development ministers. These principles, as stated in the Chair's Summary, include:

  • ensuring sustainability of results
  • building on proven, cost-effective, evidence-based interventions
  • focusing in the countries with the greatest needs while continuing to support those making progress
  • supporting country-led national health policies and plans that are locally supported
  • increasing coherence of development efforts through better coordination and harmonization
  • improving accountability
  • strengthening monitoring, reporting, and evaluation

In June 2010, through the Muskoka Initiative, Canada led G8 and non-G8 leaders to commit $7.3 billion to mobilize global action to reduce maternal and child mortality and improve the health of mothers and children in the world's poorest countries. Canada is providing $1.1 billion in new funding and $1.75 billion in ongoing spending on maternal and child health programming, a total contribution of $2.85 billion from 2010 to 2015.

In September 2010, the United Nations Secretary-General announced a $40 billion Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, aimed at helping the world meet Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. It will also contribute to the millennium development goals to improve nutrition and  combat major illnesses and diseases, including HIV/AIDS and malaria. The Muskoka Initiative is Canada's contribution to this strategy.

In November 2010, Canada's Minister for International Cooperation outlined how Canada's $2.85 billion contribution to the Muskoka Initiative would be organized. The maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) funding follows three integrated paths, focuses on ten countries and involves multilateral, global and Canadian partners.

In November 2010, Canada's Minister for International Cooperation also announced several new global health, nutrition and disease prevention initiatives as part of Canada's implementation of the Muskoka Initiative. The Minister also announced the Muskoka Initiative Partnership Program.

In December 2010, Prime Minister Harper agreed to co-chair a new UN commission on accountability and transparency to monitor the progress of the Global Strategy. The commission issued its report in May 2011.

In September 2011, Prime Minister Harper announced Canada's support for 28 new projects that will help save the lives of mothers, infants and children in Haiti, Africa and Asia under the Muskoka Initiative Partnership Program.

In March 2014, Prime Minister Harper announced, Canada will host a Summit, Saving Every Woman, Every Child: Within Arm's Reach, on maternal, newborn and child health in Toronto from May 28 to 30, 2014. The summit will focus on reducing the preventable deaths of newborns, mothers and children under the age of five in developing countries, priorities of the Muskoka Initiative, by bringing together global leaders and Canadian experts to galvanize support for the next phase of efforts to ensure that maternal, newborn and child health remains a global priority.