Address by MP Nina Grewal: Announcement of Funding to UNICEF for Humanitarian Assistance in Somalia

July 23, 2014 - Surrey, B.C.

Check Against Delivery

Good morning/afternoon. Thank you for coming.

It is a pleasure for me to be able to talk to the people of Surrey about the wonderful work that Canada is doing to help the people of developing countries affected by humanitarian crises.

Sitting in our safe homes in Canada, with enough food to eat and clean water to drink, with ready access to medical care, most of us lead lives in which the situation faced by people in conflict zones is remote from our experience and frankly, unimaginable.

It was shocking for me to learn, for example, that in 2013, 11.7 million people around the globe lived as refugees, and that more than 33 million people were displaced within their own countries.

Among the most vulnerable are women and children who live in situations of conflict and insecurity. They live with fear for their security and many are forced to flee their homes and sources of livelihood, with few possessions.

But I am proud to say that our country is committed to protecting and assisting people who continue to suffer because of conflict and civil unrest in developing countries. Canada is a world leader in providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations around the world.

Our Government has a principled foreign policy that represents values we share as a country. Saving the lives of vulnerable women and children is one of the clearest expressions of our Canadian values. At the Saving Every Woman, Every Child Summit held in Toronto last May, Prime Minister Stephen Harper released the Toronto Statement, which reaffirmed global consensus on the way forward toward ending the preventable deaths of mothers, newborns and children under the age of five within a generation, and committed an additional $3.5 billion in support toward achieving that goal. To answer the call for help to women and children who have been displaced or affected by conflict, we work with experienced partners like the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF.

UNICEF and its partners are right there, on the ground, ensuring that children have access to water, sanitation, health care, and education, despite the desperate circumstances they may be living in.

Somalia is home to one of the largest and most enduring humanitarian crises in the world—the result of decades of conflict and instability, where chronic drought makes it difficult for people to eke out a living under the best of circumstances.

An ongoing conflict between the Somali government and its allies, and the Al Shabaab insurgents—as well as sporadic inter-clan conflicts—has complicated humanitarian relief operations, threatening the safety of aid workers and blocking the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance.

Currently, close to three million people in Somalia are struggling to feed themselves, and more than 200,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished and facing death.

More than a million Somalis are displaced within their own country and a further million live as refugees in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen.

Significant international support is needed. 

And Canada has been helping. We have been a consistent supporter of humanitarian organizations, both working in Somalia and supporting Somali refugees in neighbouring countries, to help provide food, water and sanitation, as well as health care, emergency shelter, and protection for the most vulnerable people, including children.

Today, on behalf of the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, I am pleased to announce that Canada will contribute further funding of $5 million to UNICEF for the provision of humanitarian assistance in Somalia.

This funding will contribute to the improved health, well-being and protection of children, women and their families.This will make a difference. For example:

  • 135,000 children under five will be treated for malnutrition;
  • 2.2 million children will receive essential vaccinations;
  • 180,000 children will have access to quality education;
  • 9,000 children who have been the victims of gender-based violence or military recruitment will get the community care and support they need;
  • 500,000 people will have improved access to clean water; and
  • 90,000 families will be able to protect their livelihoods.

In other words, Canada’s support to UNICEF will help ensure that Somali families get what they need to survive.

I know that those of you taking part in today’s round table, and members of the Umoja Operation Compassion Society, know only too well through your own experience as immigrants and refugees just how life-altering this help will be for Somali children and families.

And I can assure all of you that Canada will continue to respond to the needs of families facing humanitarian crises in the developing world.

Thank you.