Written by Kevin McCort, president and CEO of CARE Canada. Mr. McCort will participate this week in a round table meeting on maternal, newborn and child health at CIDA along with a conference hosted by the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (CAN-MNCH). CAN-MNCH is comprised of 63 Canadian organizations actively engaged in MNCH work in over 1,000 regions around the world. Mr. McCort is a member of CAN-MNCH’s steering committee.
In my 20 years with CARE, one of my personal highlights was in 2010 when the Canadian government showed tremendous leadership in the area of maternal, newborn and child health with a major investment by G8 countries in the Muskoka Initiative. This was an extraordinary win in the battle to save and improve the lives of mothers and children in developing countries.
There has been some advancement in maternal and child health in the last decade. The UN reports that since 1990, the number of women who died from complications in childbirth has fallen by 47 per cent worldwide. Incredible progress is also being made in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, which have all halved their child mortality rates since 1990.
At the same time, we are still seeing high rates of maternal and child mortality concentrated in the two poorest regions in the world, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. These areas account for 85 per cent of maternal deaths and 82 per cent of deaths for children under five worldwide.
There is still so much work to be done to improve this dire situation.
In 2010, CARE Canada received $22.4 million in Muskoka Initiative funding for three maternal, newborn and child health programs in Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. We expect our programs to reach three million people by 2015.
These programs will use comprehensive, community-based approaches that integrate maternal, newborn and children’s health with sexual and reproductive health and family planning, nutrition, micro-finance, education and HIV/AIDS information.
In Tanzania alone, we will provide half a million vulnerable women and adolescent girls, as well as 100,000 newborns, with vital health programs. Our efforts there are focused on:
- Increasing the knowledge, awareness and access to financial resources of women and adolescent girls;
- Improving the maternal and reproductive services at health facilities;
- Bringing health services closer to the women and adolescent girls who need them most; and
- Increasing the capacity of health authorities in the management of maternal and reproductive health services, as well as their responsiveness to the needs of their communities.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete was recently in Canada, and I had the pleasure of attending the state dinner held in his honour hosted by Governor General David Johnston.
In my discussions with Canadian and Tanzanian officials at the event, one central theme seemed to stand out. The importance of the Muskoka Initiative investments in improving the health of women and children is complementary to the economic development initiatives also underway in Tanzania. The conversation between Canada and Tanzania isn’t about “trade versus aid,” it’s about both, as a healthy population is much better placed to participate and enjoy the fruits of development.
Canada is playing an important role in supporting Tanzanian efforts to improve the quality of life for its citizens and we should all be proud of what we are part of. The state dinner was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our partnership in taking on these challenges.
I am very proud of CARE’s work in Zambia on Moyo Wa Bana, a CIDA-funded project that implements an integrated approach to the management of childhood illnesses for children under five. In the late 1990s, we started child survival programs when I was Country Director in Zambia and CARE continues to make progress in building the capacity of local health workers to improve child survival rates throughout the country.
One of the key priorities of the CAN-MNCH network meeting this weekend is to bring agencies closer together, share success stories and, ideally, transfer insights gained from one program to another. I’m sure I will be able to share our successes and learn from others to the benefit of our programs in Tanzania, Zambia and other countries.