Improving the health and rights of women and children

16 million girls become mothers every year. 90% are already married. 60% of the world's 800 million undernourished people are women and girls. Cervical cancer kills more than 260,000 women worldwide each year. Of those deaths, nearly 90% are in developing countries.

The world community has made tremendous progress on improving the health and rights of women and children. Between 1990 and 2015:

  • The World Health organization says 44% fewer women died of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth
  • UNICEF states the number of children younger than age five who died each year decreased from 12.7 million to 5.9 million
  • The World Health organization reports the number of newborns who died within the first 28 days of life declined from 5.1 million to 2.7 million

Access to quality health care

Poverty and inequality still prevent many women, children and adolescents from getting the quality health care they need to survive and thrive.

World Health Organization numbers show that approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day. Most of these deaths—99%—occur in developing countries.

About 225 million women in developing countries would like to delay or avoid pregnancy, but are not using contraception.

UNICEF reports that 16,000 children younger than five years old die every day. More than half of early child deaths are due to conditions that could be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable interventions.

And, more than 16 million adolescent girls become mothers every year. Of these girls, 90% are already married. This reduces their educational and economic opportunities and increases the health risks to both themselves and their babies.

Canada’s commitments

Canada committed $3.5 billion (2015-2020) to improve the health and rights of women and children around the world.

Our efforts focus on:

  • promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, which are critical to saving lives and reducing poor health
  • helping the poorest and most vulnerable, including in fragile states where more than half of maternal deaths occur
  • improving nutrition to promote the survival, health and well-being of women, children and adolescents
  • reducing infectious diseases, for example, through immunization—one of the most cost-effective health investments
  • strengthening health systems so countries can better respond to health challenges
  • improving accountability by tracking our progress to ensure our investments are making a difference

Evidence and outcomes drive our efforts. We focus on interventions that yield good results and save lives.

Canada’s leadership

Canada is a member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Group for Every Woman Every Child. We support the roll out of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. This will ensure that all women, children and adolescents can survive, thrive, and reach their full potential.

Canada is the Global Financing Facility’s founding donor and chairs its governing body. In that role, we lead global efforts to coordinate maternal, newborn and child health programming.

Partnerships to improve global health

Canada is the seventh largest donor to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Almost 60% of this funding directly benefits women and girls by providing better access to prevention, treatment and care. The Global Fund has saved 17 million lives to date.

Canada is an anchor donor of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has helped to immunize half a billion children to date and saved 7 million lives. Gavi aims to save an additional 6 million lives between 2016 and 2020.

The importance of paperwork

Canada set up a Centre of Excellence for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems at the International Development Research Centre.

The Centre works to improve CRVS systems in developing countries to ensure that vital events in people’s lives are recognized and recorded, such as:

  • birth
  • adoption
  • marriage
  • divorce
  • death

This gives governments the information they need to create policies and programs that meet people’s needs. It also helps ensure that children do not miss opportunities such as immunization and education.

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