Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada


Health and Development

Good health means more than not suffering from an illness or disability. It is a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being in which a person's basic needs are met.

Good health allows people to reach their full potential: children in school are better able to learn, workers are more productive, and parents are better able to care for their children.

Over the long term, good health is indispensable to the sustainable economic growth of communities.

Canada works with allies and partners to improve access to healthcare services across Afghanistan, especially for women and girls.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to a standard of living that is adequate for health.

Good health is also essential for the stability of entire regions, as pandemics, which transcend borders, lead to imbalances in the family and demographic structures of communities and increase pressure on health systems.

While global health has improved significantly in recent decades, this benefit has not been evenly shared within and among nations. Several hundred million people across the globe continue to go without basic health services, especially in rural areas and in the most impoverished communities.

  • In 2010, according to the World Bank, life expectancy in the least developed countries was 58.6 years. In Canada, it was 80.8 years.
  • Nearly a billion men, women and children in the world suffer from chronic hunger.
  • Each year, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an estimated 287,000 women do not survive pregnancy or childbirth.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2011, 115 million children under the age of five were underweight and nearly 178 million were stunted. The highest rates of stunted growth are in Africa and Asia.
  • The WHO also estimates that some 7.6 million children under the age of five die each year — most as the result of infections such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and measles that could be prevented by access to nutritious food, vaccination and safe water supply and sanitation.
  • Globally, 783 million people do not have access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation.

Canada's strategy

Canada is a key donor for health programs in the developing world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It works with a large number of partners, including the following:

As part of its Children and Youth Strategy for developing countries, Canada focuses primarily on child survival and maternal health and works to:

  • improve access to maternal health care to reduce maternal and newborn illnesses and deaths
  • invest more in child-specific integrated health care and intervention, including immunization, nutritional supplements and clean water
  • invest more in the prevention of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and in water and sanitation, all of which directly affect mothers and children
  • strengthen sustainable health systems that can provide quality health care to mothers and children
  • assist in training health care workers to address the needs of mothers and children under the age of five.

These measures will translate into better health for mothers and higher survival rates for children under the age of five, reduced deaths from infectious diseases, and country health systems that better meet the health needs of mothers and of children.

Since the year 2000, Canada has also introduced key initiatives to support the three Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) directly focused on health: reduce child mortality (MDG 4), improve maternal health (MDG 5) and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (MDG 6).