Canadian leadership improving maternal health services and newborn nutrition around the world

Two projects supported by Canada will accelerate progress on maternal, newborn and child health in the developing world

May 5, 2014—Vancouver, BC—Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

The Honourable Kellie Leitch, Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey (Ontario) and Minister of Labour and of Status of Women, announced today two projects that will accelerate progress on maternal, newborn and child health in the developing world.  The announcement was made in an address to the joint Meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies and the Asian Society for Pediatric Research, where Minister Leitch highlighted Canada's leadership role in promoting the health of women and children in developing countries and in reducing the unacceptable mortality rates these vulnerable people face each year.  

Improving the health of mothers, newborns and children and reducing the number of preventable deaths are Canada's top development priority. In 2010, as part of its G-8 presidency, Canada launched a global effort—the Muskoka Initiative—to mobilize global action to reduce maternal, infant mortality and improve the health of mothers and children in the world's poorest countries. Significant progress has already been made and our common goal is within arm's reach. That is why the Prime Minister is once again taking action to mobilize the world. Canada will host Saving Every Women, Every Child: Within Arm's Reach, an international summit that will shape the future of global action on maternal and child health issues. The Summit, to be held in Toronto, May 28-30, 2014, will build on Canada's leadership and chart the way forward for the next phase of global efforts. 

The Making Motherhood Safe project ($10.2 million over four years), implemented by the non-governmental organization Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT), is aimed at improving access to quality health services for more than 500,000 poor and vulnerable pregnant women and their newborns in Tanzania's Dar es Salaam region, where the maternal mortality rate is high.  Tanzania is one of Canada's development countries of focus.

The Innovative Approaches to Improve Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices project ($20 million over two years), implemented by FHI 360, focuses on the nutrition, health, and survival of newborns and infants in countries where undernutrition is widespread by improving breastfeeding and infant feeding. Exclusive breastfeeding is a high-impact intervention that could save an estimated 200,000 infant lives a year if practiced at scale, and is a key element of the UN's Every Women, Every Child initiative. This project is part of the Alive and Thrive Initiative, which has also been supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for many years.  

"Due in large part to Canada's leadership, global attention and resources have been drawn to maternal, newborn and child health issues," said Minister Leitch. "Global action, kick-started by the launch of the Canada-led Muskoka Initiative, has saved countless lives and improved the health of millions of mothers, newborns and children in the developing world."

Maternal, newborn and child health is Canada's top development priority. Thanks to the Muskoka Initiative and subsequent global action, maternal mortality rates are declining and millions more children are celebrating their fifth birthday. Undernutrition and improving access to health services across the developing world is critical to ensuring the health of mothers, newborns and children, and an important component of the Muskoka Initiative; further discussions in these important areas will figure prominently at the Summit later this month.

"Improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices save lives, prevent illness, and promote optimal physical and cognitive growth and development", said Jean Baker, Director of the Alive and Thrive Initiative. "This funding from Canada and other donors will contribute to saving lives and ensuring a healthier, more productive future."

"Canada's focus on maternal, newborn and child health reflects the values of millions of Canadians who believe that we cannot stand idle while the poorest and most vulnerable suffer deaths that are easily and inexpensively prevented." added Minister Leitch. "Tanzania is one of the Government of Canada's development countries of focus, and this project will help to ensure that women, newborns and children in Tanzania can have better access to quality health services. By working together, eliminating preventable deaths among women, children and newborns is within arm's reach."

Quick Facts

  • On April 28, 2014, the Prime Minister announced that Canada will host Saving Every Woman Every Child: Within Arm's Reach, an international Summit on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health issues.
  • The Summit, to be held from May 28 to 30, 2014, in Toronto, will build on Canada's leadership and bring together Canadian and international leaders and experts, Canadian charities, businesses, scientists, developed and developing countries, international organizations and global foundations to ensure that maternal, newborn and child health remains a priority of the global development agenda.
  • The causes of maternal and under-five child mortality in developing countries are largely preventable with increased access to affordable and cost-effective solutions that most Canadians take for granted.
  • Women and children in developing countries are significantly more likely to die from simple, preventable causes, due to a lack of proven, affordable and cost-effective solutions that most Canadians take for granted.
  • Progress is being made. The number of women who die each year during pregnancy or childbirth has dropped by 47 percent—from 543,000 deaths in 1990 to 287,000 in 2010.
  • The global number of deaths in children under the age of five has also dropped by 45 percent from nearly 12 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012.
  • Canada is providing $2.85 billion in funding between 2010 and 2015 under the Muskoka Initiative to save the lives of women and children in developing countries.
  • Canada is on track to meeting its Muskoka commitment, 80 percent of the funding is already disbursed. 

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Contacts

Margaux Stastny, Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie
Telephone: 819-953-6238
Email: margaux.stastny@international.gc.ca

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