Canada recognizes World Health Day by helping save lives of children in Sub-Saharan Africa

April 7, 2013

Good health is necessary for people to reach their full potential: children learn better at school, workers are more productive, and over the long term, people can better contribute to the sustainable economic growth of their communities and of their countries. Today, to mark World Health Day, the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation, announced new support to treat children in Sub-Saharan Africa for illnesses that are responsible for nearly 30 percent of deaths among children under the age of five.

"World Health Day is an opportunity to celebrate what the international community has achieved in improving people's health around the world," said Minister Fantino. "Our Government is proud to support this initiative because Canadians understand the important contributions that healthy children can make to the development of their families, communities and countries. So long as children are dying every day from easily treatable or preventable illnesses, Canada will remain at the forefront of the global effort to improve the health of vulnerable mothers, newborns and children around the world."

Canada will build on its strong history of support for the treatment of childhood illnesses by supporting the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to improve people's knowledge about, and access to, effective treatment for diarrhea and pneumonia in four countries (EthiopiaKenyaNiger and Tanzania) in Sub-Saharan Africa. This initiative will raise the awareness of caregivers and front-line health workers of zinc and oral rehydration salts as the recommended treatment for diarrhea, and antibiotics as the preferred treatment for pneumonia. It will also improve the availability of these essential medicines by addressing bottlenecks in their procurement, distribution, storage and delivery. Canada's support will strengthen the ability of local governments to provide these medicines, but also foster private sector partnerships to ensure that women and children have continued access to safe and effective treatment.

"UNICEF is very grateful to the Government and people of Canada for their unwavering support to children in need all over the world—and this grant is one more instance of their generosity," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. "Diarrhea and pneumonia are the biggest killers of children under five globally. By increasing demand for effective treatment and strengthening the delivery of life-saving supplies, the grant will help reduce illness and death among millions of the poorest and most disadvantaged children in Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger and Tanzania."

Nearly seven million children under the age of five die every year globally. More than half of these early deaths are attributable to conditions that could be prevented or treated through access to simple and affordable interventions.

Supporting this important initiative is just another step in Canada's long-standing commitment to helping improve children's health around the world. Canada and its partners have already achieved remarkable results in improving global health. Between 1990 and 2011, deaths of children under five decreased by 40 percent, and deaths from malaria decreased by 30 percent. In 2011-2012 alone, Canada and its partners have seen the following successes:

  • 7.8 million children in Afghanistan received polio vaccines;
  • 92 percent of children under the age of one in Mali received essential immunization;
  • 1.2 million children in Bangladesh received polio and measles vaccines;
  • 4 million children in Mozambique received measles vaccines and were given Vitamin A supplements;
  • 7.1 million children in Ethiopia received essential vitamins and minerals; and
  • 63 percent of households in Ghana gained improved access to safe water.

Economic Action Plan (EAP) 2013 reaffirms Canada's commitment to international development assistance such as the treatment of preventable childhood illnesses. As announced in EAP2013, the Harper Government will enshrine the responsibilities of the Minister and the priority of international development and humanitarian assistance, for the first time ever, into law. The new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development will enhance coordination of international assistance with broader Canadian values and objectives.

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For more information, media should contact:

Daniel Bezalel Richardsen
Press Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation
Telephone: 819-953-6238
Email: danielbezalel.richardsen@acdi-cida.gc.ca

Media Relations Office
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Telephone: 819-953-6534
Email: media@acdi-cida.gc.ca
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