Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Maternal, Newborn and Child Health

Mother caressing her baby © ACDI-CIDA/Roger LeMoyne

Canada's Leadership

Improving the health of mothers, newborns and children and reducing the number of preventable deaths are top priorities for Canada. On the margins of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in the Fall of 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper co-hosted a high-level meeting on women's and children's health, identifying maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) as Canada's "flagship development priority."

Each year, hundreds of thousands of women die during pregnancy or childbirth and, in 2012, 6.6 million children died before reaching the age of five. Many of these deaths can be prevented by cost-effective, evidence-based interventions.

In 2010, as part of its G-8 presidency, Canada launched a global effort—the Muskoka Initiative—to mobilize global action to reduce maternal, infantmortality and improve the health of mothers and children in the world's poorest countries.

Canada is providing $1.1 billion in new funding between 2010 and 2015. Canada is also providing $1.75 billion in ongoing spending on maternal and child health programming, a total contribution of $2.85 billion.

In November 2010, Canada outlined how its $2.85 billion contribution to the Muskoka Initiative would be organized. Through the MNCH initiative, funding follows three integrated paths, focuses on ten countries and involves multilateral, global and Canadian partners.

Focus on three paths

Strengthening health systems to improve service delivery to maternal, newborn and child health at the local level by training more health workers and increasing access to adequately equipped local health centres. Canada is working with country partners to:

  • Support national plans and priorities regarding maternal, newborn and child health
  • Fill gaps in health systems (for example, by training more health workers, by increasing access to health facilities, by ensuring health facilities and personnel are sufficiently equipped, and by implementing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms)
  • Expand access to services

Reducing the burden of leading diseases affecting mothers and children. Canada is supporting the provision of life-saving medicines, vaccines, and actions needed to prevent and treat the prevalent diseases and illnesses that are the main causes of maternal and child mortality.

Improving nutrition by increasing access to healthy and nutritious food, and essential micronutrient supplements that improve and save lives. Canada supports initiatives that improve nutritional health by:

  • Improving infant and child-feeding practices
  • Promoting exclusive breastfeeding
  • Providing ready-to-use therapeutic foods and key vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A supplements and iodized salt

Focus on 10 countries

Canada's geographic investments focus on countries with high child and maternal morbidity and mortality rates, that have demonstrated they can make progress on maternal, newborn and child health. In these countries, Canada works to increase access to health centres at the local level and ensure its sustainability over the long term. Canada focuses its efforts on the following 10 countries:

Partnerships with multilateral, global and Canadian organizations

With multilateral and global partners, such as UN agencies, Canada works in countries where the need is greatest across the three paths of the initiative. Canada continues to support the following:

  • The Micronutrient Initiative (MI), which delivers essential vitamin and mineral supplements around the world, saving lives and ensuring children get the chance to reach their full potential ($75 million from 2010 to 2015). Through the MI programs, Canada:
    • provided zinc and oral rehydration salts to 5.2 million girls and boys under five presenting symptoms of diarrhoea
    • improved treatment for severe acute malnutrition for 46,575 children aged between 6 and 59 months
    • administered two doses of Vitamin A supplements through routine health contacts with 4.7 million children
  • The GAVI Alliance, which works to introduce vaccines most notably against pneumonia and diarrheal disease in the poorest countries—two of the biggest killers of young children ($50 million from 2011 to 2015). With support for GAVI Alliance programs, Canada:
    •  contributed to fully immunizing an additional 145 million children during 2010-2013, reaching more than 441 million children since the creation of the GAVI Alliance in 2002
    • helped, so far, more than 25 developing countries to accelerate the introduction of vaccines against pneumonia by a decade, preventing the deaths of millions of children each year
  • The United Nations Health Agencies (H4+), to support the coordinated delivery of national maternal and newborn health programs. The H4+ includes the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Health Organization, the United Nations Joint Programme for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equity and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), UNICEF and the World Bank ($50 million from 2011 to 2016.). Results achieved to date include the following:
    • trained 368 health care providers in basic emergency obstetric and newborn care in Sierra Leone
    • rehabilitated five maternity waiting shelters in Zambia
  • The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to safeguard substantial achievements already made in developing countries and to expand prevention, care, and treatment for those most vulnerable to the three diseases ($540 million from 2014-2016). With Canada' support, the Global Fund has:
    • provided AIDS treatment to 4.2 million people as of December 2012

Canadian partners engage the expertise of health practitioners and extensive networks of local civil society organizations to address local and national health priorities. Through community-based efforts to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality, they can extend the reach of national health services to rural and underserved areas. In many high-burden countries, civil society organizations provide the main platform by which to reach vulnerable groups and are able to respond in a timely and effective way to needs identified by communities.

Launched on November 2, 2010, the Muskoka Initiative Partnership Program is providing $82 million from 2010 to 2015 to partner-driven projects that deliver concrete development results in countries with high rates of maternal and child morbidity and mortality. Results include:

  • Expanded access to basic health care for more than 16,000 women of childbearing age in Bangladesh resulting from the training of 281 birth attendants, the construction of thirteen village maternal and child health centres, and the provision of 16 locally-appropriate emergency transfer vehicles, such as tricycle or boat ambulances
  • Increased disease prevention in Ethiopia through clinical outreach sites, which have provided vaccinations to nearly 9,000 children and antenatal care, including HIV testing and counselling on prevention of mother-child transmission of HIV/AID, for more than 1,300 pregnant women.
  • Improved awareness of nutrition issues in Mali and Mozambique through training of 707 people (621 women) from community groups on effective nutrition practices, including infant feeding, as well as training of 1,567 community health workers on identification of nutrition problems in pregnant and breastfeeding women and in children younger than five

In addition, a $1.8 million project with the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health is working to increase effectiveness, collaboration and coordination among more than 60 Canadian organizations engaged in MNCH initiatives.

For more information on specific MNCH projects supported by Canada in various countries and regions around the world, please visit the Project Browser.