Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

An urgent need: Saving the lives of mothers and children

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It is a sad reality that each year, in the developing world, hundreds of thousands of mothers die during pregnancy or childbirth and nearly nine million children die before they reach their fifth birthday.

Canada believes this must change. In 2010, Canada, with other G8 countries, launched the Muskoka Initiative on maternal, newborn and child health. This initiative is part of the United Nations $40 billion Global Strategy and its goal of saving 16 million lives by 2015. Canada, with Tanzania, also led the development of a global accountability framework to make sure these resources are used effectively.

The Muskoka Initiative, will save the lives of women and children by:
  • Strengthening health systems
  • Preventing and treating illnesses
  • Improving nutrition

Strengthening health systems

Canada is working with 10 partner countries to improve health services at the local level. In Tanzania, for example, Canada is:
  • training health care workers
  • increasing obstetric care and assistance with childbirth
  • immunizing infants
  • monitoring their growth
  • and improving health management information systems

Canada is also helping the government make sure that every Tanzanian lives within 10 kilometres of a functioning health centre.

The result? Falling child mortality rates and a slight decline in maternal mortality rates.

"I came for ante-natal services for three times at this clinic. I got services as far as my pregnancy was concerned. I received drugs when I was sick, also tablets for preventing the anemia. Until the date when I was started the labour pains, I was getting the quality services from the clinic. I delivered safely, there was not any problem."

Preventing and treating illnesses

According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, almost 4,000 children die every day from diarrhea, which in the developed world is little more than an inconvenience, not a killer.

In Bangladesh, Canada is supporting the work of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research. This centre has pioneered new more effective treatments and treated more than half a million people over the past two years.

The centre also provides health services for 70 villages in Matlab. Four out of five women now give birth at a health facility, compared to one out of five in other parts of Bangladesh.

"In this ward we keep the patients with septicemia, birth asphyxia, neo-natal jaundice, and other complications here. We have the oxygen facility, pulse oximeter and the phototherapy machine. In some cases whenever we need the IV infusion we can provide this and the glucometer we can take that here also."

Improving nutrition

In Bolivia, one out of three children suffers from malnutrition. Canada is supporting a program called Zero Malnutrition, and has provided Bolivia with millions of sachets of Chispitas or sprinkles in English - an easy-to-use powder containing life-saving vitamins and minerals that is sprinkled on a child's food - and helped local companies produce and distribute chispitas nation-wide.

"Once the child is born, we need to examine her weight and height, and we have to explain the proper diet to her mother."

Between 2009 and 2010, the number of children receiving chispitas increased from 37 percent to 48 percent. During the same time, child mortality due to severe malnutrition decreased from 7 percent to 6 percent.

Canada's commitment to improving the health of women and children is saving the lives of mothers and babies around the world.