Address by Lois Brown, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development at a 'Global Health & the World of Business' event with the GAVI Alliance and the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health

March 27, 2014 - Ottawa, ON

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

It's an honour to be here.

I would like to extend a special thanks to Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, and Helen Scott, Director of the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, for inviting me.

Unfortunately, Minister Paradis couldn't be here, but I know that he is veryinterested in the outcomes of this timely meeting. 

As you know, the Prime Minister recently announced that Canada will host a high-level Summit on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health this May in Toronto.

The Summit will bring together key Canadian health experts and global leaders to take stock of the progress we have achieved and to build consensus on the way forward.

In 2010, Prime Minister Harper brought much-needed global attention to child and maternal mortality in developing countries when he led the G-8 Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

With his leadership, Canada mobilized support from other G-8 countries, donors, international organizations, the private sector and foundations.

Together, we pledged to save the lives of 64,000 women and 1.3 million children.

Nearly four years since the launch of the Muskoka Initiative, maternal mortality rates are declining and millions more children are celebrating their fifth birthday.

This is, in large part, thanks to partners like the GAVI Alliance and the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, including the Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

Unfortunately, we know that even with this progress, it remains unlikely that we will fully meet the Millennium Development Goals in this area.

Last year alone, more than six million children under five died from preventable diseases. And nearly 300,000 mothers died during pregnancy.

This is why Canada is seizing the opportunity to mobilize leaders and health experts once again, and to galvanize support for the next phase of our efforts on maternal, newborn and child health.

Our goals are within arm's reach, but in order to get there, we need to be more effective, more focused, and more innovative.

This is why one of the key focuses of the Summit will be the importance of broadening our partnerships with the private sector and using innovative financing to reduce the preventable deaths of women and children in developing countries.

Collective action is essential to tackling these problems.

Going forward, we need to leverage additional capital, innovation and the technical know-how of the private sector.

Partnerships with leading Canadian businesses, civil society, and our key global partners can provide a much more strengthened approach than each of us operating on our own.

We know this because we have seen first-hand how public-private partnerships and innovative financing can save the lives of women and children.

I can think of no better example than Canada's support for the GAVI Alliance, which is a world leader in immunization.

GAVI has all the elements of a successful public-private partnership.

It combines the technical expertise of the development community with the business know-how of the private sector.

It harnesses the technical expertise of the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that new vaccines are developed.

It works with donors to ensure that health is prioritized in aid programming.

And it works to strengthen country health systems and to engage civil society organizations—including those here with us today—to ensure that these vaccines are delivered to the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world.

Businesses invest in the GAVI Alliance because they know that immunization is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote global health.

Vaccines provide a strong return on investment. And companies recognize that when women and children thrive, economies thrive.

Donors like Canada support GAVI because of its impressive track record in delivering results.

Since 2000, GAVI has helped to immunize 440 million children, saving six million lives.

This track record is why Canada became an early donor to the Advanced Market Commitment for the pneumococcal vaccine, which is being administered by GAVI.

As many of you know, pneumonia is one of the biggest killers of children under the age of five in developing countries.

For a new, complex vaccine to reach these countries, it normally takes 10 to 15 years.

Through this initiative, donors work with the pharmaceutical industry and local governments to speed up the development and availability of the pneumococcal vaccine for the world's poorest countries—and to lower the cost.

Four years after the launch of the Advanced Market Commitment, the price of this life-saving vaccine has been reduced by 95 percent for the world's poorest countries. It is being rolled out in 30 countries as we speak.

This is the type of innovative business model the Canadian Government endorses and financially supports.

As I mentioned earlier, the outcomes of this meeting will be helpful to Minister Paradis and myself, as we support the Prime Minister in his preparations for the Summit in May.

I look forward to hearing your perspectives and ideas on the role of business in global health financing.

Once again, thank you for inviting me.

I am now happy to introduce Seth Berkley, GAVI's CEO, to tell you more about GAVI's work as an innovator and collaborator that delivers results.